'Very positive signals' after U.S., Taliban talks

'Very positive signals' after U.S., Taliban talks

The talks took place in Doha, where the Taliban have long maintained an informal "political office" for the goal of restarting the long-dormant peace process.

The Wall Street Journal reported that Alice Wells, a top United States envoy for South Asia, led the United States delegation in talks with members of the Taliban's political commission.

Earlier, a State Department official told Dawn that Washington was exploring "all avenues" to advance the Afghan peace process, and was doing so "in close consultation" with the Afghan government.

"The environment was positive and the discussion was useful", the Taliban official told The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because he was not authorised to speak to the media.

The Taliban have held their first direct contact with a United States official in a preliminary discussion about future peace talks on Afghanistan, a senior official with the insurgent group confirmed today.

The other official said that the meeting had concerned the peace process, and that the Taliban were expecting good results from it, including further similar meetings.

A former Taliban minister and ex-head of their political committee, Aga Jan Mohtism, who has maintained close contacts with the insurgent group, also confirmed a meeting in Doha took place earlier this week.

Asked about talks with the Taliban, a State Department spokesman referred to a July 9 comment from Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, that the United States would "support, facilitate, and participate in these peace discussions, but peace must be decided by the Afghans and settled among them".

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The Taliban have argued that the Afghan government can not act independent of Washington. They also say that unless they can allay US concerns about the group, an agreement with Kabul would be meaningless.

US officials are reported as saying Monday's engagement with the Taliban was aimed at building on momentum generated by last month's unprecedented temporary cease-fires the Afghan government and the Islamist insurgency observed during three-day Eid festivities last month.

But U.S. officials have taken pains to insist that such talks would not mean the abandonment of what has been a long-standing policy that any peace process would be "Afghan owned and Afghan led".

The Afghan president's office said Saturday that it welcomed any support for peace efforts. The Taliban insists the USA, and not the Afghan government, has the authority to determine a timetable for all American and North Atlantic Treaty Organisation troops to withdraw from Afghanistan.

Taliban walks as they celebrate ceasefire in Ghanikhel district of Nangarhar province, Afghanistan.

In the meantime, sources have said that the head of Taliban office Maulvi Sher Abbas Stanekzai led the Taliban team in talks, who called for removal of United Nations restrictions on Taliban leaders and recognition of their office in Qatar.

There was also a suggestion at the time that the talks would include the freedom of five Taliban held in the USA prison at Guantanamo Bay and the release of captured US soldier Bowe Bergdahl.

Some 3,550 worldwide coalition troops, including 2,413 Americans, have died in Afghanistan since the invasion in 2001.

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