U.S. diplomats held direct talks with the Taliban marking the first face-to face peace effort since President Trump gave the nod for such negotiations on July 15.
Although the talks were not confirmed by the State Department, Taliban officials, speaking on the condition of anonymity, confirmed talks were held in Doha, Qatar and termed them “friendly” and “positive.”
The State Department’s deputy-assistant secretary in the Bureau of South and Central Asian Affairs, Alice Wells, led the U.S. delegation.
Both the U.S. and the Afghan government say they are interested in ending the 17-year Islamist insurgency led by the Taliban in Afghanistan. The move comes after the Taliban agreed to a first-ever truce mid-June during the Eid Al-Fitr holiday which comes after the end of the Islamic month of Ramadan.
The Taliban has consistently insisted that as long as American troops are in Afghanistan, negotiations with the U.S. are a precondition for peace talks with the Afghan government. Despite the talks, which the Taliban called “a series of meetings for initiating formal and purposeful talks,” the U.S. maintains any peace negotiations must be made between the Taliban and the Afghan government.
Although the Taliban resumed its bloody attacks on Afghan security personnel after the three-day truce ended, pictures taken during the ceasefire of Taliban fighters and Afghan security forces taking selfies hugging each other astonished the country’s population.
It was the first ceasefire since the U.S. invaded Afghanistan to rout the Taliban after the 2001 9/11 attacks.
The talks also come on the heels of the election of Taliban-friendly and anti-American politician Imran Kahn as prime minister of Pakistan, which will undoubtedly complicate the prospect of peace between the Taliban and the Afghan government, a political reality of which the U.S. is well aware.
Afghanistan’s porous border with Pakistan has historically been used by Islamists on both sides to smuggle Taliban fighters in and out of the country. And despite protests by Khan that extremism in Pakistan would not have arisen without the U.S.’ “War on Terror,” the Pakistani political establishment and its intelligence establishment have employed terror as a state policy long before 9/11.
Now, with Khan at the helm of Pakistan, the drive for peace in Afghanistan and its assumed censure of the influence of the Taliban is more urgent than ever.
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