Extended US-Taliban peace talks in Qatar raise Afghan hopes

Al Jazeera

Talks between US and Taliban officials in Qatar have now gone on for four days with the two sides trying to establish a mechanism for a ceasefire in the 17-year Afghan war and open dialogue with the Afghan government. US special peace envoy Zalmay Khalilzad's meeting with Taliban representatives was originally slated to run over two days, and its unexpected extension was a positive sign, according to two senior Taliban leaders in Afghanistan who have been kept informed of the progress made in Qatar. During the first two days, the talks focused on a roadmap for the withdrawal of the foreign forces and a guarantee that Afghanistan would not be used for hostile acts against the United States and its allies, according to one of Taliban leaders, who wished to remain anonymous. "The mechanism for a ceasefire and ways to enter into an intra-Afghan dialogue were the two other big topics that were supposed to be discussed on Thursday," the official told Reuters news agency. Members of Afghanistan's High Peace Council (AHPC), a body which oversees peace efforts but does not represent the government, said they were hoping that positive news would emerge from Doha.

Taliban names cofounder as head of political office in Qatar

Al Jazeera

The Afghan Taliban has named one of its co-founders as the leader of its political office in Qatar, as part of a major reshuffle that comes as talks with the United States to end the 17-year war appear to gain momentum. The appointment of Abdul Ghani Baradar on Thursday was announced as a meeting in Doha between the group's representatives and US special peace envoy Zalmay Khalilzad that was originally scheduled to last for two days entered its fourth day. In a statement, the Taliban said the reshuffle in their team, which included new shadow governors for several Afghan provinces, was "taken to strengthen and properly handle the ongoing negotiations process with the United States". It was not clear whether the talks in the Qatari capital were to continue on Friday, or how soon Baradar could join them. "Baradar will soon fly to Qatar. He has been given the new position because the US wanted senior Taliban leadership to participate in peace talks," a senior Taliban official said.

'Significant progress' made in US-Taliban talks in Qatar

Al Jazeera

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.

America's Afghan peace envoy makes surprise stop in Kabul

The Japan Times

KABUL – Washington's special peace envoy, Zalmay Khalilzad, was in the Afghan capital Kabul on Wednesday to launch an "accelerated effort" to get Afghans on both sides of the protracted conflict to the negotiation table to plot a roadmap to a postwar Afghanistan. His next stop will be Doha in the Middle East, where he will restart talks with the Taliban, according to a U.S. State Department statement. The talks would be the first official round since September when President Donald Trump declared an all but done deal dead after a surge in violence killed 12 people in the capital, including a U.S. soldier. In Kabul on Wednesday, Khalilzad met with several Afghan leaders, including President Ashraf Ghani, who repeated his call for a cease-fire. Hekmat Karzai, chairman of the Kabul-based Center for Conflict and Peace Studies, tweeted photographs of his meeting Wednesday with Khalilzad in Kabul, saying they "spoke about the way forward."

Taliban hold talks with US envoy in Qatar

Al Jazeera

Taliban officials have held three days of talks with the United States' special representative for Afghanistan in Qatar, Zalmay Khalilzad, aimed at renewing the peace process in the war-torn country, an official of the armed group said. The talks, which ended on Sunday, were confirmed by other individuals close to the group, who spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorised to discuss the negotiations. The Taliban said its dialogue process with Washington was aimed at securing a timetable for the withdrawal of all the US and NATO troops from Afghanistan to pave the way for an intra-Afghan dialogue. Last week, a five-member Taliban delegation had attended talks in Moscow for the first time at an international conference to discuss the Afghan peace efforts. "A second phase (of discussions) should be held among Afghans (themselves) on how to bring about peace and form a government in Afghanistan," Sohail Shaheen, a Qatar-based spokesperson for the Taliban, told reporters in Moscow last week.