Islamabad, Pakistan - United States Special Envoy on Afghan Reconciliation, Zalmay Khalilzad, is due to arrive in the Pakistani capital Islamabad for talks with the country's civilian and military leadership, as the Afghan Taliban threaten to pull out of peace talks that could see an end to the 17-year Afghan War. Khalilzad is expected to land in Islamabad on Thursday, although the envoy's schedule has been fluid in recent days after his visits to New Delhi, Beijing and Kabul, with brief stops in Dubai, since embarking on his regional tour earlier this month. The US envoy's visit to Pakistan comes as the Afghan Taliban on Tuesday threatened to pull the plug on direct negotiations with the US, accusing the country of duplicity in a statement issued to the media. "If [the US] seeks to avoid accepting the legitimate demands of Afghans and under various excuses wishes to pursue its colonial and military objectives in the guise of peace ... it means it has a lack of interest in finding a peaceful solution to the Afghan problem," read the Taliban statement. In advance of Khalilzad's visit, senior US State Department official Lisa Curtis has been holding meetings in the Pakistani capital.
The United Arab Emirates said talks it is hosting between the United States and the Taliban have yielded "positive" results. The US-Taliban "reconciliation talks" produced "tangible results that are positive for all parties concerned", the UAE's official WAM news agency said on Wednesday. A new round of talks would be held in Abu Dhabi "to complete the Afghanistan reconciliation process", it said without providing further details. The two days of meetings in the Emirati capital are Washington's latest attempt at ending Afghanistan's 17-year conflict, which has cost it nearly $1 trillion since 2011 when it led an invasion to overthrow the Taliban government of Afghanistan following the September 11 attacks. President George W Bush's administration at the time accused the Afghan group of harbouring Osama bin Laden, the leader of al-Qaeda, which carried out the attacks.
Critical peace talks between the Taliban and the Afghan government in Qatar have been postponed after a disagreement over who should attend. Sultan Barakat, director of Qatar's Center for Conflict and Humanitarian Studies, the organisation sponsoring the talks, tweeted news of the postponement, saying "this is unfortunately necessary to further build consensus as to who should participate in the conference". The talks, scheduled for Friday between Afghan government and Taliban representatives, were considered a significant first step towards finding a negotiated end to the war in Afghanistan and the eventual withdrawal of US troops, which would end the US's longest war. A list of 243 people was announced by Qatar on Thursday. That list differed from Afghan President Ashraf Ghani's list of 250 people, which included around 50 women, according to a senior government official, who spoke on condition of anonymity.
The Taliban has named a 14-member team of negotiators, including five former Guantanamo Bay inmates and a high-profile jailed leader, for the second round of talks with the United States. With the move announced on Tuesday, the group has pushed for the release of Anas Haqqani, younger brother of the leader of the powerful Taliban faction, Haqqani network. He is currently held in a jail in Afghanistan's capital, Kabul. Taliban spokesperson Zabihullah Mujahid said Haqqani "should be released to start work on the negotiating team". He said Haqqani "was a student at the time of his arrest and was not involved in any activity for which he should be arrested".
The US peace envoy for Afghanistan has hailed "significant progress" in six days of talks with the Taliban in the Qatari capital, Doha, aimed at finding a solution to end the 17-year-old war in the South Asian country. "Meetings here were more productive than they have been in the past. We made significant progress on vital issues," Zalmay Khalilzad, the US special representative for Afghan reconciliation, wrote on Twitter. The Taliban rejected media reports about a possible "agreement on a ceasefire". "Reports by some media outlets about agreement on a ceasefire and talks with the Kabul administration are not true," Zabihullah Mujahid, the Taliban spokesman, said in a statement shared with Al Jazeera.