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August 23, 2019

Afghan Taliban, US resume peace talks in Doha

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August 23, 2019

PESHAWAR: Senior members of the Afghan Taliban said they resumed peace talks with the US in Doha on Thursday, adding they were optimistic about success of the negotiations.

Pleading anonymity, a member of the Taliban negotiating team in Qatar said that all their senior leaders and members of the peace council held lengthy sessions before start of the meeting with the US delegation.

Taliban spokesmen in Doha, Suhail Shaheen and Zabihullah Mujahid in Afghanistan confirmed that the 9th round of the peace talks with the US began on Thursday.

“We resumed peace talks with the US today on August 22 in Doha. Maulvi Mohammad Abbas Stanakzai led the Islamic Emirate (Taliban) while ZalmayKhalilzad represented the US delegation in talks,” Zabihullah Mujahid said.

He said the US military commander in Afghanistan General Scott Miller also participated in the talks. A senior Taliban leader and member of the negotiations team said they had already resolved major issues with the US and hoped a peace agreement could be signed before conclusion of the current session.

“We are hopeful this time as we have already discussed all issues in detail with them (US) and could sign the peace accord if they proved sincerity in talks. I must say we resolved most of the major issues and hurdles in the talks and there should be no problem in the ongoing session,” said the Taliban leader.

Pleading anonymity, he said the Taliban shura, headed by their supreme leader Sheikh Haibatullah Akhundzada, and their Qatar-based Political Commission, led by Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, spoke in detail and discussed all matters related to the peace talks.

“Our negotiation team is well prepared and they have the authority to make decisions. But the question remains whether the US officials would make unrealistic demands,” he said. According to Taliban sources, US officials were willing to announce the withdrawal plan of their forces from Afghanistan but in return they wanted Taliban to declare a ceasefire across the country. Taliban rejected this demand.

“We told them we would announce a ceasefire in the areas from where the US troops are withdrawn. Also, we made a commitment to announce ceasefire but they would need to stop all type of military operations against Taliban in Afghanistan,” said the Taliban leader in Qatar.

Also, Taliban said the US wanted Taliban to give them more than a year for withdrawal which they didn’t accept. Taliban agreed on a six-month period for US to withdraw all its forces from Afghanistan.

“Let’s see what happens this time. We agreed on the intra- Afghan dialogue after signing the peace agreement with the US. However, we made it clear to the US that we would not hold direct peace talks with the Afghan government,” he added.

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