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Taliban heads to Iran to discuss ending 18-year Afghanistan war

Taliban politburo chief Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar met Iran's foreign minister in Tehran [Anadolu/Getty]

Date of publication: 27 November, 2019

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Iran's state TV said a meeting was held between Taliban politburo chief Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar and Iran's Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif.

Taliban delegation visited Tehran and discussed efforts to bring a negotiated end to Afghanistan's 18-year war, Iran state TV reported.

Taliban politburo chief Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar met with Iran's Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, according to a Wednesday report. It said they discussed Tehran's readiness to help facilitate intra-Afghan dialogue.

Taliban spokesman Suhail Shaheen tweeted that the meeting took place on Tuesday.

While rare, these are not the first talks between the Taliban and Iranian officials.

A Taliban delegation also traveled to Russia, China, Iran and Pakistan after talks with the US collapsed in September.

Last Tuesday, the Taliban freed an American and an Australian held hostage since 2016 in exchange for three top Taliban figures.

The swap could herald a breakthrough in stalled efforts to bring the Taliban to the negotiating table with the Kabul government and begin work towards a political settlement ending their 18-year insurgency.

When Afghan President Ashraf Ghani first announced the potential exchange on November 12, he said that Kabul had ensured the militants would not return to the front line.

And he said he hoped the swap would "pave the way" for unofficial direct talks between his government and the Taliban, who have long refused to negotiate with Kabul.

Since September 2018 Washington and the Taliban had been holding direct talks, seeking an agreement for US troops to begin leaving Afghanistan and the militants start negotiations with Kabul. 

They were on the verge of a deal when US President Donald Trump scuttled the talks in September, citing Taliban violence.

Read more: CIA-backed 'death squads' accused of Afghanistan 'war crimes'

Most observers agree that a political pact is the only way towards lasting peace in Afghanistan.

"We see these developments as hopeful signs that the Afghan war, a terrible and costly conflict that has lasted 40 years, may soon conclude through a political settlement," Pompeo said.

Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan, whose government had helped facilitate the talks between the insurgents and Washington, also said he hoped the release would give a "boost of confidence" to all sides to re-engage.

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