US and Taliban resume talks: Report
Islamabad: The Afghan Taliban have resumed talks with the US in Qatar to find a political solution to the decades-old conflict in Afghanistan though the two sides have been unable to make any headway in the parleys, according to a media report on Saturday.
The two sides are sticking to "hard conditions" during the initial rounds of the talks, senior unnamed Taliban leaders were quoted as saying by The News daily.
The Taliban had opened an office in Qatar on January 03 and named it their "diplomatic office" for talks with the US.
A five-member Taliban delegation led by Tayyab Agha, the brother-in-law and spokesman for Afghan Taliban supreme commander Mullah Mohammad Omar, travelled to Qatar three weeks ago and held two rounds of talks with US officials, the Taliban leaders said.
Maulvi Shahabuddin Dilawar, a former Taliban envoy to Saudi Arabia, is another member of the delegation.
However, the Taliban leaders said they were not expecting any "immediate breakthroughs" in the ongoing talks.
The Taliban leaders said the Afghan Foreign Minister failed to meet the Taliban delegation during a recent visit to Qatar.
"The Taliban and Americans wanted Pakistan to be included in the talks while the Afghan government opposed Pakistan`s participation.
"The Afghan Foreign Minister did not want the Taliban office in Qatar to have legal status to develop contacts with the international community," one Taliban leader said.
The last round of talks with the US had annoyed some Taliban factions and commanders, the leaders said. A meeting of top commanders was held in Afghanistan before the delegation left for Qatar and it approved the holding of negotiations with the US.
At the same time, the commanders decided to continue their fight against foreign troops and the Afghan government.
"Besides others, Mullah Omar wasn`t happy holding talks with the US in Qatar.”
"This time though he and other Taliban leaders approved the talks with the US by arguing that negotiations were part of the war effort," a senior Taliban leader was quoted as saying.
The last round of talks was limited to the exchange of prisoners but the US and Afghan governments began asking the Taliban to announce a ceasefire before any prisoner swap, the leader said.
The Taliban said they had set up an office in Qatar in the hope that it would help facilitate a prisoner swap, especially the release of five commanders held at Guantanamo Bay since 2002.
Over the past few years, the Taliban have been in contact with the US to discuss the exchange of American soldier Bowie Bergdahl, captured in June 2009 in Paktika province, for several Taliban prisoners, including Mullah Fazal Akhund, Noorullah Noori, Abdul Haq Waseeq, Khairullah Khairkhwa and Mohammad Nabi.
The Taliban leaders claimed that the Afghan government was not sincere to both the US and the Taliban and it did not want the US government to hold talks with the militants.
They accused the Afghan government of disrupting the talks in Qatar by demanding that the five Taliban commanders should be sent to Kabul after their release from Guantanamo Bay.
The Taliban leaders further said they would announce a truce only after all foreign forces had been withdrawn from Afghanistan.
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