Mon, 10 Aug 2020

US-Taliban Talks in Qatar Pause for a 'Few Days'

Voice of America
13 Dec 2019, 08:05 GMT+10

ISLAMABAD - The Afghan Taliban says it wrapped up nearly a week of peace negotiations Thursday with the United States in Qatar in a "good and positive" atmosphere, but the insurgent group did not report any breakthrough.

Both Taliban and U.S. negotiators have agreed to resume the talks after "a few days" and internal consultations, said Suhail Shaheen, who speaks for the Taliban negotiating team.

The U.S.-Taliban dialogue ended a day after insurgents carried out a major suicide car bomb and gun attack on the largest American military base in Afghanistan, the Bagram Airfield.

Local officials said, however, the Taliban raid inflicted casualties only on the nearby Afghan civilian population, killing at least one woman and injuring scores of people there.

Shaheen attempted to dismiss suggestions the assault dealt a blow to the negotiation process in Qatar, saying the atmosphere in Thursday's session of meetings was "good and positive."

There were no immediate comments from the U.S. negotiating team, which is led by the special representative for Afghanistan reconciliation, Zalmay Khalilzad.

The talks restarted last Saturday, three months after President Donald Trump abruptly suspended the process, citing increased insurgent attacks in the Afghan capital of Kabul that killed an American soldier, among others.

Insurgent sources said that in the meetings in Qatar over the past six days, Khalilzad and his team pressed the Taliban to reduce violence or declare a cease-fire and enter into intra-Afghan negotiations aimed at finding a political settlement to the war.

Khalilzad is trying to seal a U.S.-Taliban agreement that would lead to Afghan-Taliban negotiations to permanently end decades of hostilities and enable all international forces to leave the country.

Shaheen stated again earlier this week that once a troop-withdrawal agreement is signed between the Taliban and the U.S., insurgents would observe a cease-fire with U.S. and NATO forces to facilitate their departure. A nationwide cease-fire with Afghan security forces, he said, would be on the agenda when Afghan-Taliban negotiations begin.

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