PESHAWAR: After their two rounds of meetings that took place earlier in Qatar, the US and Afghan Taliban on Monday started peace talks in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) to end the 17-year-old war in Afghanistan.
According to sources, the US is in a hurry to sign peace pact with Taliban. The US wanted Taliban to announce a six-month ceasefire, join the national unity government that is to be installed in Afghanistan in future and become part of the Afghan political system, the source added.
In return, Taliban wanted the US to release all their prisoners, lift ban on movement of their leaders from blacklist and announce a deadline for withdrawal from Afghanistan. "Currently, 95 per cent of the attacks on US and Afghan forces are being carried out by the Taliban and in case they announced a ceasefire, it will help the US and Afghan forces, not the Taliban, and therefore they are reluctant to stop fighting," said a source close to the Afghan Taliban.
He said the Taliban would like to oblige Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Pakistan but it would not be an easy job to announce a ceasefire at the moment. Taliban sources said they could announce a ceasefire if these three countries -- Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and UAE
-- become the guarantors and the future caretaker government is given to someone nominated by the Taliban.
Afghan Taliban Spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid confirmed the peace talks with the US, but strongly denied reports that Taliban delegation would also be meeting with the Afghan government. While on the other hand the US says that they want a peace agreement without any delay.
According to the Taliban spokesman, officials of three countries, including the UAE, Saudi Arabia and Pakistan were also participating in the peace negotiations between them and the US.
A five-member Taliban delegation, headed by Sher Mohammad Abbas Stanakzai, head of Taliban political office in Qatar, went from Qatar while four senior Taliban leaders, including Ameer Khan Muttaqi, Mullah Abbas Akhund, Hafiz Yahya and Maulvi Siddiqullah had gone from Afghanistan for holding direct talks with the US.
Sources close to the Taliban told The News that Qatar was not happy when it came to know that the talks would take place in the UAE. Also, they said that Qatar didn't allow some other members of the Afghan Taliban when they attempted to fly to the UAE on Monday for peace talks. "Yes, it's true Qatar and we are having same feeling that Qatar would not be happy with the peace process being taken place in the UAE this time. Qatar has done enough for Taliban and appeared the first country that offered its soil to Taliban to set up their political office," said one source privy to the ongoing developments.
He said Saudi Arabia and the UAE held the peace talks in the UAE to sideline Qatar while the US wanted to keep China and Russia away from the peace talks.
Pleading anonymity, he said the Taliban had good terms with all the regional powers and can't afford to offend any country, particularly Qatar, UAE, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, Iran, China and Russia, claiming that most of these powers had helped them in crisis.
He said the peace talks between the US and Taliban will continue for three days. According to Taliban sources, the next round of talks would take place in Saudi Arabia.
The US wanted Pakistan and Saudi Arabia to use their influence on Taliban to soften their demands. Prime Minister Imran Khan recently claimed to have organised the meeting between the US and Taliban, though they were already engaged in peace negotiations.
However, insiders said that top US officials during their recent meetings with Pakistani authorities have offered to help it get financial package from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) in case it convinced the Taliban on softening their demands.
INP adds: Pakistan Foreign Office Spokesperson Dr Mohammad Faisal confirmed that the talks are being held in the UAE, and said the country hopes for an end to bloodshed in Afghanistan. "Along with international community and other stakeholders, Pakistan is committed to peace and reconciliation in Afghanistan. Talks are being held in the UAE. We hope this will end the bloodshed in Afghanistan and bring peace to the region," he tweeted.
Meanwhile, a Pakistan-arranged meeting between the US and Taliban officials will be held today in Qatar to find adecades long war in Afghanistan. The special representative for Afghan reconciliation Zalmay Khalilzad will lead the US team at the talks in Doha the Voice of America reports. Since taking office in September the Afghan born US special envoy has held two meetings with the Taliban in Qatar where the insurgent group operates its so-called political office.
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