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Taliban and US to have second meeting, Taliban says

U.S. Marine Corps Cpl. Daniel Hopping, an assaultman with Weapons Company, 1st Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment, shields himself from dust being kicked up from a CH-53E Super Stallion helicopter lifting off April 28, 2014, during a mission in Helmand province, Afghanistan. The company's mission was to disrupt Taliban forces in Larr village and establish a presence in the area. (Cpl. Joseph Scanlan/Department of Defense)
September 13, 2018

Officials from the U.S. and the Taliban may soon meet for their second round of discussions.

Taliban officials spoke anonymously with the Associated Press, saying they’re prepared for their second meeting with the U.S., which may take place this month.

Officials say the meeting will “likely to focus on prisoner exchanges, confidence building measures, and ways to move from back-door meetings to formal negotiations,” the AP said. The Taliban is waiting on the U.S. to set the date of the meeting, although the U.S. has not confirmed or denied the existence of this meeting, or a first meeting that reportedly took place several weeks ago.

Taliban-U.S. meetings have been demanded by insurgents for awhile, as they were thought to begin the process of leading to Afghan-Afghan talks.

The first Taliban-U.S. meeting reportedly took place in July with Alice Wells, deputy assistant secretary of the State Department’s Bureau of South and Central Asian Affairs. One of the Taliban officials said the meeting held “very positive signals” and a “friendly atmosphere.”

“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,” a Taliban official said in July. The Taliban officials said they agreed upon a second meeting in Sept.

The Taliban said that before formal peace talks can begin, their organization and political office in Qatar must first be recognized, and sanctions removed from their top leaders. They’ve also requested the release of some 2,000 prisoners held in Afghanistan, a feat the U.S. has been demanding along with the release of two American professors that were kidnapped in Aug. 2016.

In June, the Trump Administration ordered the withdraw of U.S. troops from isolated areas to avoid attacks, The Hill reported. The strategy was said to ensure the Taliban’s control over large territory.

President Trump announced an overhaul of the Afghanistan strategy in 2017, citing frustrations and weariness over the ongoing war. Two active U.S. bases remain in Afghanistan, which has been another point of contention for the Taliban.

Waheed Muzhda, a former Taliban official, said: “[The] U.S. wants the Taliban to accept at least two military bases, Bagram and Shorabak. The Taliban are not willing to accept it.” The Taliban wants the U.S. to maintain a minimal number of troops required to carry out the U.S. diplomatic mission.

Although Afghan President Ashraf Ghani has invited the Taliban to hold negotiations, the Taliban has refused.

Army Gen. John W. Nicholson believes the possibility of peace talks between the Afghan government and the Taliban shows promise. “This must be an Afghan-led, Afghan-owned peace process, with Afghans talking to Afghans. And the U.S. is prepared to support, facilitate and participate in these discussions,” Nicholson said.