Last week, a U.S. diplomat met with officials from the Taliban to discuss the possibility of a ceasefire.
The meeting, which was held in Doha, was said to have concluded with “very positive signals” and an agreement for additional meetings, MSN reported.
Taliban officials met with Alice Wells, deputy assistant secretary of the State Department’s Bureau of South and Central Asian Affairs. The meeting did not include officials from the Afghanistan government, at the Taliban’s request.
One Taliban official claiming to be among the four members in the meeting said that aside from the “very positive signals” the meeting held a “friendly atmosphere.”
“You can’t call it peace talks,” he said. “These are a series of meetings for initiating formal and purposeful talks. We agreed to meet again soon and resolve the Afghan conflict through dialogue.”
Taliban militants say they have held their first direct talks with a US official about future peace negotiations aimed at ending America’s longest war https://t.co/V5ktES3tch
— Sky News (@SkyNews) July 28, 2018
The official said the talks included proposals from the Taliban to permit their free movement in two Afghan provinces and a guarantee against attacks, although Afghan President Ashraf Ghani has disapproved of the proposal in the past.
The Taliban also expressed a desire to be involved in the Afghan government. “The only demand they made was to allow their military bases in Afghanistan,” the official said.
A second Taliban official said: “We have held three meetings with the U.S. and we reached a conclusion to continue talks for meaningful negotiations.”
“However, our delegation made it clear to them that peace can only be restored to Afghanistan when all foreign forces are withdrawn,” he added.
The meeting was said to have been approved by Taliban leaders. The U.S. State Department did not confirm nor deny that the meeting occurred, however, it did confirm that Alice Wells was in the region and met with Qatari officials to discuss Taliban-Afghan peace, The Hill reported.
“The United States is exploring all avenues to advance a peace process in close consultation with the Afghan government,” a State Department official said. “Any negotiations over the political future of Afghanistan will be between the Taliban and Afghan government.”
Recently, the U.S. and the Afghan government have focused on pursuing options to end the 17-year-long war in Afghanistan. During last month’s Eid al-Fitr holiday marking the end of Ramadan, a weeklong truce occurred, allowing Taliban fighters and Afghan soldiers to enjoy the holiday without violence.
The truce was the first step toward peace seen since 2015 when peace talks halted.
#Taliban held first direct contact with a #US official in a preliminary discussion about future #peace talks on #Afghanistan; marking one of the most significant developments amid efforts to find a negotiated end to the country’s protracted war.https://t.co/UnkNcviRKq pic.twitter.com/8d9u1fWbVc
— Afghan Studies Center (@ASCenterPak) July 30, 2018
Afghan President Ashraf Ghani offered to extend the truce period, but the Taliban reportedly refused the offer. Ghani is said to be considering another ceasefire for the upcoming Eid-al Qurban holiday. U.S. officials reportedly urged Taliban officials to accept the ceasefire.
Earlier this year, the Taliban rejected the Afghan government’s invitation for peace talks.
In response, the Taliban said: “Our country has been occupied, which has led to an American-style supposed Afghan government being imposed upon us,” according to Reuters.
“And your view that we talk to them and accept their legitimacy is the same formula adopted by America to win the war,” the response added.
The Taliban has been expressly open to talks with the U.S., however. If peace is to be achieved between the Taliban and the Afghan government, it will likely go through the U.S. as a middleman.