Taliban call off peace talks with USA officials

People gathered Taliban as they celebrate ceasefire in Bati Kot district of Nangarhar province Afghanistan

People gathered Taliban as they celebrate ceasefire in Bati Kot district of Nangarhar province Afghanistan

Khalilzad will meet with Afghan government officials and other interested parties to support and facilitate an inclusive peace process in Afghanistan, empowering the Afghan people to chart a shared course for their nation's future, it said.

A day after US President Donald Trump and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi discussed efforts to enhance cooperation in war-torn Afghanistan, the former's special Afghan envoy Zalmay Khalilzad is headed for India, according to an official announcement.

That Taliban figure also had said the group was refusing to allow what he called "puppet" Afghan officials to take part in the Doha meetings.

Shamkhani was in Kabul last month for talks with the Taliban "to help curb the security problems in Afghanistan".

"The U.S. officials insisted that the Taliban should meet the Afghan authorities in Qatar and both sides were in disagreement over declaring a cease-fire in 2019", he said.

Taliban sources said that they had demanded USA authorities release 25,000 prisoners and they would free 3,000, but that US officials were not keen to discuss the exchange at this stage.

"During my visit to Kabul last month, the Americans. asked to hold talks", Ali Shamkhani, the secretary of Iran's Supreme National Security Council and a close aide to Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, was quoted as saying, without specifying what the USA side wanted to discuss. "We have the feeling that Zalmay Khalilzad doesn't have enough power to make important decisions", an unnamed Taliban jihadi told Reuters. The Taliban has previously said the presence of foreign troops was the biggest obstacle to peace in Afghanistan.

The Taliban also called off a meeting with US officials in Saudi Arabia earlier this week because of Riyadh's insistence on bringing the Western-backed Afghan government to the negotiating table.

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A close aide to Ghani said the government was ready to meet the Taliban "anywhere and any time".

The people pointed out that Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and the UAE were the only ones that had recognised the erstwhile Taliban regime in Kabul, while Khalilzad served as the contact person for USA oil company Unocal, which helped the Taliban lobby with the U.S. state department in 1997 to recognise the regime in Kabul. Pakistan denies the claim.

The US still keeps around 14,000 troops there as part of a NATO-led mission aiding Afghan security forces and hunting militants.

At the request of the United States, a Taliban office was established in Doha in 2013 to facilitate peace talks.

There are now 14,000 USA troops in Afghanistan.

The document, reviewed by Reuters, suggests that the USA and North Atlantic Treaty Organisation withdraw their military missions in phases over an expected period of 18 months.

The U.S. Embassy in Kabul did not immediately respond to a request for comment about the cancellation. It adds that the USA may continue providing civilian assistance and seek contributions from other donors.

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