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Taliban chief negotiator denies intra-Afghan talks are set to start next week

U.S. envoy Zalmay Khalilzad speaks at the inauguration of the Ghazi School in Kabul. (US Embassy Kabul Afghanistan/U.S. Department of State)

This article was originally published by Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and is reprinted with permission.

Abdullah Abdullah, the chairman of Afghanistan’s High Council for National Reconciliation, said on August 27 that intra-Afghan talks will begin next week, bringing together representatives of both the Taliban and the Afghan government.

However, the militant group’s chief negotiator, Mohammad Abbas Stanikzai, said in a statement sent to the Reuters news agency later in the day that no peace talks were planned with Afghan officials for early September.

Abdullah, the former chief executive officer of Afghanistan’s unity government, said at an event he was attending in Kabul that the Afghan government team was fully prepared for the negotiations with the Taliban.

On August 26, the Taliban said it had formed a new 20-member department responsible for Taliban representation at both the intra-Afghan talks and further negotiations with the United States.

Stanikzai told RFE/RL that he will head the new department, which he said would be tasked with selecting the location and agenda for the planned intra-Afghan peace talks.

The peace talks are part of an earlier agreement reached between the Taliban and U.S. envoys in an effort to end the war in Afghanistan.

Stanikzai said the Taliban’s newly formed department is separate from the Doha-based Taliban political office and would be in direct contact with the Taliban leadership. He also said he thinks the intra-Afghan talks would take place in several different countries.