'Very Positive Signals' After US, Taliban Talks

Afghanistan's Taliban militia says peace talks have started with the US

A senior Taliban official says the insurgent group has held the first direct talks with a usa official in a preliminary discussion about future plans for a negotiated peace in Afghanistan.

They involved several members of the Taliban political commission and Alice Wells, the State Department's senior South Asia diplomat, as well as other unidentified us diplomats, according to the two Taliban officials. Despite the talks, which the Taliban called "a series of meetings for initiating formal and purposeful talks", the US maintains any peace negotiations must be made between the Taliban and the Afghan government.

The unnamed Taliban officials emphasized that direct talks with U.S. officials, in person and without the presence of Afghan officials or ministers, were a demand of the leadership of the insurgent group.

He said the meeting was held in Qatar, where the Taleban maintained a political office since 2013.

It is not clear when the next meeting would be held, but they were certain there would be one.

Both the USA and the Afghan government say they are interested in ending the 17-year Islamist insurgency led by the Taliban in Afghanistan.

This was particularly significant in that the Taliban officials in Doha were willing to confirm that the meeting had happened at all, and spoke favorably about future meetings.

Alice Wells the US's top diplomat for South Asia
Alice Wells the US's top diplomat for South Asia

It was the first ceasefire since the US invaded Afghanistan to rout the Taliban after the 2001 9/11 attacks.

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, right, speaks during, a press conference with US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. The US media say the White House has ordered American diplomats to seek direct negotiations with the Taliban.

During the Taliban's five-year rule that ended with the 2001 US-led invasion, leader Mullah Mohammed Omar said regardless of whatever concessions they agreed to, including allowing girls to attend school, it would not gain them worldwide recognition as long as the USA refused to accept them.

The current Taliban leadership, most of whom are Mullah Omar's contemporaries, still believe their future in Afghanistan can be guaranteed only if the United States' concerns are addressed.

After fighting a war for nearly two decades, both the U.S. and the Taliban now feel that a military solution is nearly impossible.

The Afghanistan government led by USA ally President Ashraf Ghani is ready to engage in peace talks with the Taliban, alongside the United States to participate only as observers.

His release was eventually secured in May 2014 in exchange for the five Taliban prisoners, who are living in Doha.

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