Taliban talks resume amid hopes of deal

Special Representative for Afghanistan Reconciliation Zalmay Khalilzad and the Taliban have resumed negotiations on ending America’s longest war. (AP Photo)
Updated 22 August 2019

Taliban talks resume amid hopes of deal

  • The disclosure came in a context of ongoing bloodshed in Afghanistan after NATO said two US military personnel were killed Wednesday
  • Washington is hoping to strike an agreement with the Taliban by September 1 — ahead of Afghan polls due the same month

DOHA: The US and the Taliban met in Doha on Thursday, an American source close to the talks said, for potentially decisive dialogue to allow Washington to drawdown militarily in Afghanistan.
The source said the talks started around 1300 GMT — the ninth time the two foes have met face-to-face.
The disclosure came in a context of ongoing bloodshed in Afghanistan after NATO said two US military personnel were killed Wednesday, blasts rocked Jalalabad Monday, and the death toll from a weekend wedding bombing reached 80.
Washington’s top commander in Afghanistan General Scott Miller was at the talks venue, according to an AFP correspondent.
The US, which invaded Afghanistan and toppled the Taliban in 2001, wants to withdraw thousands of troops but only in return for the insurgent group renouncing Al-Qaeda and curbing attacks.
Washington is hoping to strike an agreement with the Taliban by September 1 — ahead of Afghan polls due the same month, and US presidential polls due in 2020.
Taliban lead negotiator Abbas Stanikzai told AFP Thursday that overall talks had been “going well.”
The talks are expected to focus on establishing a timeline for the US withdrawal of its more than 13,000 troops in Afghanistan.
“We’ve been there for 18 years, it’s ridiculous,” US President Donald Trump told reporters Tuesday.
“We are negotiating with the government and we are negotiating with the Taliban,” he said.
“We have good talks going and we will see what happens.”
But the thorny issues of power-sharing with the Taliban, the role of regional powers including Pakistan and India, and the fate of Afghanistan’s incumbent administration remain unresolved.
US envoy Zalmay Khalilzad sought to bolster optimism for a peace agreement last week when he said in a tweet that he hoped this is the final year that the country is at war.


US service member killed in action in Afghanistan

Updated 30 min 9 sec ago

US service member killed in action in Afghanistan

  • The death brings the number of US military personnel killed in action in Afghanistan this year to at least 17
  • The latest US fatality comes after talks between Washington and the Taliban crumbled.

KABUL: An American service member was killed in Afghanistan, the US-led NATO mission said Monday, the latest US fatality after talks between Washington and the Taliban crumbled.
“A US service member was killed in action today in Afghanistan,” NATO’s Resolute Support mission said in a brief statement.
The death brings the number of US military personnel killed in action in Afghanistan this year to at least 17, just as Washington is seeking a way out of its longest war.
NATO did not immediately provide any additional information regarding the circumstances of the deadly incident.
About a week ago, President Donald Trump abruptly called off talks with the Taliban, which were aimed at paving the way for an American withdrawal from Afghanistan following 18 years of armed conflict.
“They are dead. As far as I am concerned, they are dead,” Trump said.
The announcement followed Trump’s cancelation of a top-secret plan to fly Taliban leaders and Afghan President Ashraf Ghani to the Camp David presidential compound outside Washington for talks.
Trump in part blamed the death of a US soldier in a huge Taliban bombing in Kabul for his change of heart on negotiations.
Until the talks were called off, there had been steadily mounting expectations of a deal that would see the US draw down troop levels in Afghanistan — from roughly 13,000 to about 8,000 next year.
In return, the Taliban would offer security guarantees to keep extremist groups out.
Last week, NATO said the focus of its Resolute Support mission remained “unchanged” — to train and advise local forces.
“NATO will stay in Afghanistan for as long as necessary to ensure the country never again becomes a safe haven for international terrorists,” an alliance official told AFP.