Taliban confirm meeting with US envoy in Qatar
A Taliban delegation has met with US envoy Zalmay Khalilzad in Qatar to discuss ending the Afghan conflict, the militant group said yesterday, the first time either side has officially confirmed talks.
The direct negotiations -- a longstanding Taliban demand -- were held as Khalilzad seeks to coordinate efforts with regional countries, including Pakistan and Saudi Arabia, to convince Afghanistan's largest militant group to engage in talks.
The meeting with Khalilzad and other American officials took place in Doha on Friday, Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said in a statement sent to journalists.
Taliban and US negotiators discussed a "peaceful end to the invasion in Afghanistan", Mujahid said, referring to the US-led intervention in 2001 that toppled the Taliban regime.
But the group made clear that the presence of foreign forces in the country was a "big obstacle" to peace.
Both sides "agreed to continue such meetings", he added, without providing further details.
In July, the Taliban reportedly met with US officials, including Alice Wells, the senior official for the State Department's Bureau of South and Central Asian Affairs.
The reported July meeting followed an unprecedented ceasefire involving Afghan security forces and the Taliban in June, which fuelled hopes that fighting could be brought to an end after 17 years.
But a wave of attacks by the Taliban and the Islamic State group in recent months has poured cold water on the nascent optimism for peace.