Taleban says talks with the US enter fourth day in Qatar

KABUL (AFP) – Negotiations between the Taleban and United States (US) officials in Qatar entered a fourth straight day yesterday, according to the insurgents, as the two sides pursue a potential deal to bring an end to Afghanistan’s 17-year conflict.

Taleban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid confirmed to AFP that “discussions are still ongoing”.

“We will talk in detail later when we reach an agreement,” the spokesman added.

Washington has been stepping up efforts for a peace deal that could pave the way for the Taleban’s participation in the next government.

“Both sides are discussing the various aspects of the US troops’ withdrawal,” a senior Taleban commander based in an unknown location in Pakistan told AFP, adding that a statement could be released later.

The Pakistan Foreign Ministry also confirmed that talks were ongoing between the two sides. However, there was no immediate comment from the US embassy or the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) in Kabul.

The US said on Tuesday it had resumed talks with the insurgents in Qatar, where special envoy Zalmay Khalilzad was meeting Taleban representatives.

Rahimullah Yusufzai, an expert on the Taleban, said the continuation of the talks represented “unprecedented” progress.

“I have never seen anything like this before,” he said.

“This is the first serious effort. And it has continued since July last year… they have agreed to disagree and continued to meet. That’s why it’s unprecedented.”

Talks have primarily focussed on three major points: the withdrawal of US troops, a vow to prevent Afghan soil from being a base for attacks on other countries, and a potential ceasefire, according to Yusufzai.

Washington wants the insurgents to enter talks with the Afghan government, but they have long refused, denouncing Kabul as a US puppet.

The talks come after Khalilzad spent the weekend in Pakistan where he met with Prime Minister Imran Khan as part of a regional tour that saw the envoy shuttling between India, China and Afghanistan.

The US is not the only country engaged in talks with the militants.

Russia and Iran have held meetings with the Taleban in recent months, while China has also made overtures.