Taliban confirms meeting with U.S. peace envoy in Qatar

Taliban confirms meeting with U.S. peace envoy in Qatar

Taliban confirms meeting with U.S. peace envoy in Qatar

A Taliban spokesman, while announcing details of Friday's meeting, the second in less than three months, said that USA special envoy for Afghan peace Zalmay Khalilzad led his delegation and Sher Mohammad Abbas Stanikzai, who heads the Taliban's "political office" in the Gulf state, led his six-member team in the talks.

It couldn't immediately be determined what the American envoy, Zalmay Khalilzad, discussed with Taliban officials in Qatar's capital Doha.

In July, Alice Wells, the US Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for the Bureau of South and Central Asian Affairs met with Taliban officials to discuss ways to lay the groundwork for peace talks.

According to their statement the group's delegation stressed the need for a "real and Afghan-inclusive solution" and that the two sides agreed to continue the meetings in the future.

But a wave of attacks by the Taliban and ISIS extremist group in recent months has poured cold water on the nascent optimism for peace.

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President Ashraf Ghani on Saturday met with Khalilzad who briefed him on his visit to regional countries this past week, and said the United States is ready to help Afghanistan with the peace process, the Presidential Palace said in a statement.

Ghani thanked Khalilzad for his briefing and for his efforts and said that "we welcome any efforts to bring lasting peace in Afghanistan".

Both sides "agreed to continue such meetings", he added, without providing further details. It did not mention anything about the US envoy's meeting with the Taliban. It added that the USA envoy reiterated Washington's support for "Afghan-led and Afghan-owned peace process". "They were demanding to directly meet with the USA for a long time and they finally got it", said Afghan political analyst Atta Noori.

The Taliban statement was issued as Khalilzad returned to Kabul after a regional trip that began with his first visit to Afghanistan since his appointment last month as United States envoy. Khalilzad said the U.S. will continue its efforts with the Afghan peace process alongside the leadership of the Afghan government, the statement said.

On the same day Khalilzad met with Afghan officials, the Taliban issued a statement vowing to target government security forces in upcoming parliamentary elections, which the United States is helping to finance.

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