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Afghan Taliban-US special envoy satisfied with peace talks in Qatar

01 March, 2019

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ISLAMABAD: Afghan Taliban and US special envoy Zalmay Khalilzad are apparently satisfied with the outcome of the peace talks in Qatar as both sides are likely to reach an understanding on the withdrawal of the foreign forces and preventing the Afghan soil from being used against other countries.

Taliban spokesman for political office Suhail Shaheen told Daily Times that technical groups on foreign troops and terrorism have wrapped up the two-day talks and a statement may be issued at the conclusion of the current round of negotiations.

The talks will resume on Saturday after two-day break during which both sides will hold internal discussions.

Khalilzad, who led the US team, described meetings as ‘productive’ on Thursday. “We continue to take slow, steady steps toward understanding and eventually peace,” he posted on his Twitter handle.

Senior Taliban negotiator Mullah Khairullah Khairkhwa also said the talks were ‘positive’ where both sides explained their views. “Now both sides will consult their leaders and resume negotiations on Saturday,” Khairkhwa, the Taliban former interior minister, told Afghan website nunn.asia.

Khairkhwa was among the five senior Taliban leaders who were freed from the US detention center at Guantanamo Bay in 2014 in exchange for a US soldier.

Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid also released some details of the meeting. “Extensive discussions were held about the procedure of withdrawal of foreign troops from Tuesday till Wednesday noon, and from that time onwards, discussion revolved around preventing Afghanistan from being used against other countries,” he said, and added that the meetings ended late Wednesday as both teams agreed to take a break for two days for consultations and preparation for the third meeting which shall be held on Saturday.

Meanwhile, Taliban senior leader Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar held meetings with top US commander in Afghanistan Scott Miller, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs of Qatar Abdul Rahman al-Thani and National Security Advisor Muhammad al-Masnad in Qatar. “The meetings focused on discussions about the ongoing negotiations process and withdrawal of foreign forces from Afghanistan,” Mujahid said in a statement. “Baradar clarified the Taliban policy regarding foreign forces’ withdrawal and changing situation of Afghanistan while emphasizing commitment to the current peace process along with peace and establishment of an Islamic system in Afghanistan,” he added.

Taliban insist they are discussing two issues with Khalilzad-led team but the US envoy said on Twitter that all four key issues remained on the table. He did not explain the other two issues but the US side had earlier called for ceasefire and urged the Taliban to talk to the Afghan government.

Taliban have refused so far to sit with the Kabul administration on the plea that they want to strike deal with the US on the withdrawal of troops.

“The path to peace doesn’t often run in a straight line. The situation in Afghanistan is complex and like all sensitive talks, not everything is conducted in public,” Khalilzad wrote on Twitter. “Emerging from three solid days of talks with the Taliban in Doha. Meetings were productive.

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