Taliban, US Agree to Sustain Direct Dialogue on Afghan Peace

Taliban, US Agree to Sustain Direct Dialogue on Afghan Peace

Taliban leaders and the newly-appointed USA special envoy for peace efforts in Afghanistan will continue to hold meetings to discuss ways to end the ongoing war, the Taliban said in a statement on Saturday in the first official confirmation of talks between the two sides.

The statement said that Taliban representatives discussed the "end of occupation" and "a peaceful solution in Afghanistan" in their meeting with Khalilzad.

Alice Wells, the State Department's deputy assistant secretary for South and Central Asia, met Taliban officials in Doha in July for what were described as talks about 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.

The U.S. embassy, in a Saturday statement, said Khalilzad returned to Kabul for "follow-up" meetings with the Afghan leadership and civil society representatives to hear their "views and priorities" on a settlement to the conflict.

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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". It did not mention anything about the USA envoy's meeting with the Taliban.

The direct negotiations - a longstanding Taliban demand - were held as Khalilzad seeks to coordinate efforts with regional countries, including Pakistan and Saudi Arabia, to convince Afghanistan's largest militant group to engage in talks.

The Taliban's decision to issue a statement on the meeting suggests it sees the talks with Khalilzad as a propaganda win, analysts said. Khalilzad said the USA will continue its efforts with the Afghan peace process alongside the leadership of the Afghan government, the statement said. It added that the US envoy reiterated Washington's support for "Afghan-led and Afghan-owned peace process". A Taliban official who was part of the four-person delegation to that meeting said it produced "very positive signals".

Fluent in Pashto and Dari, Khalilzad's experience as a foreign policy operative in the country dates back to the 1980s, when he served as an adviser to the Reagan administration.

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