Taliban says it met US envoy in Qatar
Washington's special envoy to Afghanistan met with the Taliban in Qatar, the insurgents said on Saturday, as efforts intensify to revive a peace process faced with mounting violence and a US troop withdrawal deadline.
The envoy, Zalmay Khalilzad, held talks earlier this week with Afghan leaders in Kabul, including President Ashraf Ghani and Abdullah Abdullah, chair of Afghanistan's High Council for National Reconciliation which oversees the government's talks with the insurgents in Qatar.
Khalilzad has proposed a grand conference that brings together Afghan and Taliban leaders to form an interim government, the Wall Street Journal reported, citing US and Afghan officials.
Taliban spokesman Muhamad Naeem tweeted that Khalilzad and the top US general in Afghanistan met with the insurgents' negotiating team in Doha, including Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, late Friday.
"Both sides expressed their commitment to the Doha agreement and discussed its full implementation. Likewise, the current situation of Afghanistan and the rapidity and effectiveness of the Intra-Afghan negotiations were discussed," he wrote.
Talks between the Afghan government and the Taliban stalled recently, following speculation that forces present in the country will not withdraw their forces in May, as was originally laid out in the Doha peace agreement brokered by Khalilzad and the Taliban last year.
The Afghan government is “reviewing any possible way to get to a dignified peace for our people,” said Nader Nadery, a senior government negotiator.
“This republic is built on sacrifices of a large number of our people and our international partners. A dignified peace must protect these,” added Nadery.
The US has announced plans to review last year’s deal. American forces are set to withdraw from Afghanistan in May, but a surge in fighting has sparked concerns that a speedy exit may unleash greater chaos as peace talks between the Kabul government and Taliban continue to stall.
The Doha accord states that the US will withdraw all troops from Afghanistan, with the Taliban promising not to allow territory to be used by “terrorists”.
Khalilzad's visit marks the first time he has publicly returned to Qatar since US President Joe Biden took office in January and asked him to stay on in his post.
He has suggested bringing in a mediator to help accelerate the peace process between Afghan government and Taliban officials in Qatar. But the larger conference has been presented as the most “desirable” outcome, one of these officials said.
Agencies contributed to this report.