Afghan Taliban meet US officials in UAE

The meeting seeks to end the 17-year war in Afghanistan. (File/AFP)
Updated 17 December 2018

Afghan Taliban meet US officials in UAE

  • The meetings come as diplomatic efforts to resolve the Afghan conflict have intensified
  • The Taliban say the presence of international forces in Afghanistan is the main obstacle to peace

KABUL: Afghan Taliban representatives and US officials met in the UAE on Monday, amid diplomatic moves toward establishing the basis for talks to end the 17-year war in Afghanistan.
Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said representatives from Saudi Arabia, Pakistan and the UAE would also take part in the talks, which follow at least two meetings between Taliban officials and US special peace envoy Zalmay Khalilzad in Qatar. He said the talks had begun and could take some time.
Diplomatic efforts to resolve the conflict have intensified, although the Taliban have refused to deal directly with the internationally recognized government in Kabul, which it considers an illegitimate foreign-imposed regime.
The Taliban, who were overthrown in 2001, say the presence of international forces in Afghanistan is the main obstacle to peace. Even as the peace process gathers momentum, fighting has continued with heavy casualties on both sides.
Although the Afghan government has not taken part directly in the talks, a team from Kabul met US and Saudi officials in the UAE on Sunday, President Ashraf Ghani’s national security adviser, Hamdullah Mohib, said.
Ghani has formed a team to negotiate peace with the Taliban but the movement said on Monday that senior members had no plans to meet the representatives of the Afghan government in the UAE.
“The talks in UAE will happen with the US envoy in the presence of representatives of some other countries,” Mujahid said.
As well as establishing direct contacts with the Taliban, US officials have stepped up efforts to win support from countries with an interest in Afghanistan, including Pakistan and Saudi Arabia.
Relations between Washington and Islamabad have long been strained over accusations that Pakistan supports insurgent groups in Afghanistan, a charge it denies. But earlier this month, US President Donald Trump requested Pakistan’s support to advance the Afghan peace process.
Senior members of the Taliban in Afghanistan said the talks would continue for three days. Taliban officials from the movement’s political headquarters in Qatar and two representatives sent by Mullah Yaqub, elder son of the Taliban’s late founder Mullah Mohammad Omar, will be present. 


Pentagon chief says keeping some troops in north Syria under discussion

Updated 23 min 5 sec ago

Pentagon chief says keeping some troops in north Syria under discussion

  • Esper said that while the withdrawal from northeastern Syria was under way, some troops were still with partner forces near oilfields
KABUL: US Defense Secretary Mark Esper said on Monday that keeping some US troops in parts of northeastern Syria near oilfields with Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) to ensure that the oil did not fall into the hand of Daesh or others was one of the options that was being discussed.

Speaking with reports during a trip to Afghanistan, Esper said that, while the withdrawal from northeastern Syria was under way, some troops were still with partner forces near oilfields and there had been discussions about keeping some of them there.

Esper said he had not presented that option yet, but the Pentagon’s job was to look at different options.