Sixth round of US-Taliban peace talks start in Doha

Sixth round of US-Taliban peace talks start in Doha
3 min read
01 May, 2019
American and Taliban officials are meeting in the Qatari capital Doha to resume talks to end a 17-year war in Afghanistan.
The US delegation will focus on a declaration of a ceasefire. [Getty]
American and Taliban officials are meeting on Wednesday in the Qatari capital Doha to continue talks in the hope of ending the 17-year war in Afghanistan.

The sixth round of discussions will be headed by US special envoy for peace in the South-Central-Asian country Zalmay Khalilzad.

The US delegation will focus, according to a western diplomat who is closely monitoring the negotiations, on the declaration of a ceasefire which would be followed by an end to the fighting.

"We are expecting the meeting to start in the next two hours as the US delegation has already arrived," Zabihullah Mujahid, a spokesman for the Taliban, told Reuters.

The Taliban's demands, however, will focus on primarily the withdrawal of US forces from Afghanistan.

Khalilzad, the Afghan-born American official leads a team of US negotiators who have held several rounds of direct talks with the Taliban in Qatar since October.

The United States has approximately 14,000 troops in Afghanistan as part of a NATO-led mission, dubbed Resolute Support.

The mission is training and assisting the Afghan government's security forces in their fight against Taliban members and extremist groups, including the Islamic State and Al-Qaeda.

US President Donald Trump aims at reaching an agreement to end the war, which removed the Taliban from power in Afghanistan in the wake of the 11 September 2001 terror attacks on the United States.

Iran on Wednesday criticised US unilateral talks with the Taliban on ending the Afghanistan war and said the US was elevating the role of the militants.

"An attempt to exclude everybody and just talk to the Taliban has alienated the government, has alienated the region, has alienated everybody else and it achieved nothing, as you've seen from the statement that came from the Taliban," Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif Zarif said, apparently referring to the militants' announcement of a new spring offensive.

He reiterated that Iran had also opened dialogue with the militant group but said that Washington's push for a deal with the extremists was "seriously wrong".

Despite its tense relations with the United States, Iran had quietly backed the initial US invasion that ousted the Taliban - Sunni Muslims who imposed a harsh interpretation of Islam over Afghanistan from 1996 to 2001.

Iran, led by Shia clerics, nearly went to war with the Taliban in 1998 after an attack on its consulate in the Afghan city of Mazar-i-Sharif killed nine Iranian diplomats and a journalist.

Iran, however, has more recently sought to build relations with the Taliban, mindful of preserving interests in the neighboring country.

Agencies contributed to this report.

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