Intra-afghan talks only after Washington agrees to withdraw troops: Taliban
The Taliban said on Sunday they will not hold direct talks with the Afghan government and rejected a statement from a senior minister about plans to hold such a meeting in the next two weeks, a senior Taliban official said.
State Minister for Peace Affairs Abdul Salam Rahimi said on Saturday it was hoped that direct talks with the Taliban would be held in the next two weeks in an unidentified European country. The government would be represented by a 15-member delegation, he said.
But Suhail Shaheen, a spokesperson for the Taliban’s political office in Qatar, denied that, saying talks with the Afghan government would only come after a deal had been struck with the US on the departure of its forces.
“Intra-afghan talks will start only after a foreign force withdrawal is announced,” Shaheen said.
The US special envoy for peace in Afghanistan, Zalmay Khalilzad, said after Rahimi had made his announcement that talks between the Taliban and Afghans would happen after the US “concludes its own agreement” with the Taliban.
Khalilzad has held several rounds of direct talks with Taliban officials in Qatar since late last year with the focus on a Taliban demand for the withdrawal of US and other foreign forces and a US demand for the Taliban guarantee that Afghanistan will not be used as a base for terrorism.
Two other main issues in the peace process are a ceasefire and talks between the rival Afghan sides, or intra-afghan talks, as they are known.
But the Taliban have refused to talk to the government of President Ashraf Ghani, denouncing it as a US puppet, and fighting has seen no let-up.
That has led to some concern in Afghanistan that the US might strike a deal to allow the US to pull out of an 18-year war that President Donald Trump is impatient to end, leaving the Afghan government to battle on alone.
Khalilzad has in recent days been holding meetings with Ghani, opposition leaders, diplomats and civil society members in Kabul before heading to Qatar for the next round of talks with the Taliban.