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US officials meeting former Taliban members: US media

22 July, 2018

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WASHINGTON: US officials are meeting former Taliban members as the Trump administration has intensified its efforts to seek a negotiated settlement of America’s longest war, the US media reported on Saturday.

In a joint report by its correspondents in Kabul, Peshawar and Washington, NBC News claimed that the meetings took place at undisclosed locations in Afghanistan, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates.

At least five Americans participated in a series of recent meetings in hotel suites in Doha, Qatar, the report added, quoting “three senior Taliban commanders”.

The report noted that Taliban often use a “network of former commanders and political leaders” as interlocutors and negotiators.

Some of those used as interlocutors “have previously been imprisoned by the US or Afghanistan and no longer have active roles,” the report added.

NBC News also pointed out that the US has lost more than 2,400 soldiers in Afghanistan since late 2001, when it invaded the country after the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

A Doha meeting participant told NBC News the gatherings were “very friendly” with “tea and cookies” being served.

The security was “very tight,” both in and outside the hotel, and even hotel staff were not allowed to enter the rooms where the meetings took place, the participant added.

NBC News reported that the Taliban delegates had also demanded strict security as they did not want to be identified by the intelligence services of Russia, China and Arab countries.

The participant claimed that to avoid detection, the Taliban did not travel in groups. “Once they [the Americans] reach the meeting place, we go there one by one,” he added.

The report claimed that hotels were chosen as venues because the Taliban and US officials initially “didn’t trust each other”.

When NBC News contacted a State Department spokesperson, the official did not confirm that any meetings had taken place, but did say the Trump administration was eager to resolve the conflict.

A spokesperson for the US Department of Defence told NBC News that it remained “prepared to support and facilitate an Afghan-led, Afghan-owned peace process”.

The report noted that the Trump administration was eager to end the Afghan war but only if it could be assured that the US-backed government in Kabul would survive the US withdrawal from Afghanistan.

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