The US Special Representative for Afghanistan Reconciliation Zalmay Khalilzad has met with the Taliban’s deputy leader Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar in Doha, Qatar, the group said in a statement on Wednesday.
The two sides exchanged views on a peaceful settlement of the conflict in Afghanistan, the statement said.
In this meeting, Baradar clarified that there is a need to finalize the two important agendas of the previous meeting which include the "complete" withdrawal of all foreign forces from Afghanistan and the assurance that Afghanistan’s soil will not be used against others, the statement added.
The statement says that it will be difficult to make progress on other issues before reaching a conclusion on the two topics.
“If the issue of troop withdrawal becomes certain, intra-Afghan dialogue will start. I don’t think that the Taliban will start intra-Afghan talks before that,” said Sayed Akbar Agha, a former Taliban member.
This comes as the US negotiators and Taliban members are set to begin their sixth round of talks in Doha today.
“Taliban are insisting that Mr. (Zalmay) Khalilzad and his team should make clear the foreign troop withdrawal strategy,” said Faiz Mohammad Zaland, a political analyst.
Khalilzad had a meeting with the Indonesian Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi in Doha. Taliban said that the Indonesian Foreign Minister has met Baradar as well.
Marsudi, the Indonesian Prime Minister has said her country is fully committed to supporting Afghanistan in a range of issues including peace and elections.
“Indonesia is still committed to contribute...in any form from offering the capacity building...share information about election...peace building and others,” Marsudi said.
While the Taliban insists on complete foreign troop withdrawal, the US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo in a wide-ranging interview to a congressional news outlet, The Hill, emphasized the need for a broad coalition of non-Taliban Afghans to strengthen the Afghan peace process.
He said that Washington will continue is anti-terror operations.
Pompeo said that ending the Afghan war and violence and continuing counterterrorism operations are the two most important goals of the US in Afghanistan.
“We are working to achieve a reconciliation so that this conflict now coming on two decades can be resolved. We can take down the violence level, we can get a political outcome. That’s a necessary condition,” Pompeo said. “The second necessary condition is that we continue to be able to perform our counter-terror operations, the ones we were speaking about before.”
In the fifth round of their talks in Qatar, the US and Taliban agreed in draft on foreign forces withdrawal and counterterrorism assurances.
“Taliban know that intra-Afghan dialogue is needed. But the reason that why they have not showed readiness is that they want to make sure that such talk will have results,” said Mushtaq Rahin, a Kabul-based political analyst.
Amid the US efforts over the Afghan peace in Doha, the Grand Consultative Jirga for Peace is ongoing in Kabul to specify the framework for peace talks with the Taliban.
Mohammad Umer Daudzai, head of the secretariat of the High Peace Council and head of the Peace Jirga’s organizing committee, on Wednesday called on Taliban to hear to the Jirga’s voice.
“I believe that the Jirga is a logical start for the peace process,” Daudzai said.