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Afghanistan

US-Taliban Talks Enter Third Day, ‘Ceasefire Discussed’

In a surprise move, the two-day talks between the United States and Taliban officials this week continued for the third day on Wednesday, reportedly due to discussions around a possible ceasefire.

According to sources close to the Taliban, the Doha talks were extended as delegates reportedly discussed the possibility of a ceasefire. 

However, it is unclear at this stage whether the talks will continue Thursday or whether the two sides wrapped up their discussions on Wednesday. 

The Afghan government, which has not attended the talks, meanwhile said the Taliban needs to speak to Kabul’s peace negotiating team directly, as the final decision on a ceasefire would be made by the government of Afghanistan. 

“At the end of the day, when the (direct) talks begin, any decision would be made by government’s negotiating team,” said Omid Maisam, spokesman for Chief Executive Abdullah Abdullah. 

A former commander of the Taliban, Sayed Akbar Agha, said the ongoing talks have raised hopes of a peace agreement. 

“The continuity of the meeting shows that there is willingness in the talks,” he said. 

Analysts meanwhile said Taliban were discussing other issues in the talks and not the issue of a ceasefire. 

The issue of the withdrawal of US troops from Afghanistan has reportedly been one of the key topics of discussion during four rounds of talks between the two sides – the US and the Taliban.

Analysts also said attacks by Taliban are carried out to give the group an upper hand in the talks with US representatives. 

“It is important for the Taliban to have their Qatar office officially recognized and to be withdrawn from the blacklist. The United States is interested that the two American lecturers who are in Taliban custody are freed,” said Nazar Mohammad Motmaen, a political affairs analyst in Kabul.

“Taliban wants a political legitimacy as well as the release of their prisoners; they have not talked about ending the war,” claimed Bilal Ahmad Niazi, a civil society activist.

This comes after US Special Envoy Zalmay Khalilzad “made it clear” this week that US wants peace in Afghanistan and that the peace efforts are moving “in the right direction”. 

After a visit to Islamabad, Pakistan, last week, Khalilzad tweeted: "We’re heading in the right direction with more steps by Pakistan coming that will lead to concrete results." 

This came after his meetings with senior Pakistani civilian and military officials including Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan, Foreign Minister Shah Mahmoud Qureshi, as well as Foreign Secretary Tehmina Janjua and Chief of Army Staff Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa. 

However, this week’s round of talks has taken place amid a deteriorating security situation which has resulted in a record number of deaths of civilians and members of security  forces in the face of a resurgent Taliban in the country.

This is the fourth round of talks after the Trump administration initiated direct contact with the Taliban in July last year.

But last month’s meeting in the United Arab Emirates was facilitated by the Pakistani government, after Trump requested Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan help with the reconciliation process. 

Washington has ramped up pressure on Islamabad to play its role in overcoming the deadlock and moving towards intra-Afghan dialogue.

Afghanistan

US-Taliban Talks Enter Third Day, ‘Ceasefire Discussed’

Government says any decision would be made in discussions between the Afghan government and the Taliban.

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In a surprise move, the two-day talks between the United States and Taliban officials this week continued for the third day on Wednesday, reportedly due to discussions around a possible ceasefire.

According to sources close to the Taliban, the Doha talks were extended as delegates reportedly discussed the possibility of a ceasefire. 

However, it is unclear at this stage whether the talks will continue Thursday or whether the two sides wrapped up their discussions on Wednesday. 

The Afghan government, which has not attended the talks, meanwhile said the Taliban needs to speak to Kabul’s peace negotiating team directly, as the final decision on a ceasefire would be made by the government of Afghanistan. 

“At the end of the day, when the (direct) talks begin, any decision would be made by government’s negotiating team,” said Omid Maisam, spokesman for Chief Executive Abdullah Abdullah. 

A former commander of the Taliban, Sayed Akbar Agha, said the ongoing talks have raised hopes of a peace agreement. 

“The continuity of the meeting shows that there is willingness in the talks,” he said. 

Analysts meanwhile said Taliban were discussing other issues in the talks and not the issue of a ceasefire. 

The issue of the withdrawal of US troops from Afghanistan has reportedly been one of the key topics of discussion during four rounds of talks between the two sides – the US and the Taliban.

Analysts also said attacks by Taliban are carried out to give the group an upper hand in the talks with US representatives. 

“It is important for the Taliban to have their Qatar office officially recognized and to be withdrawn from the blacklist. The United States is interested that the two American lecturers who are in Taliban custody are freed,” said Nazar Mohammad Motmaen, a political affairs analyst in Kabul.

“Taliban wants a political legitimacy as well as the release of their prisoners; they have not talked about ending the war,” claimed Bilal Ahmad Niazi, a civil society activist.

This comes after US Special Envoy Zalmay Khalilzad “made it clear” this week that US wants peace in Afghanistan and that the peace efforts are moving “in the right direction”. 

After a visit to Islamabad, Pakistan, last week, Khalilzad tweeted: "We’re heading in the right direction with more steps by Pakistan coming that will lead to concrete results." 

This came after his meetings with senior Pakistani civilian and military officials including Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan, Foreign Minister Shah Mahmoud Qureshi, as well as Foreign Secretary Tehmina Janjua and Chief of Army Staff Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa. 

However, this week’s round of talks has taken place amid a deteriorating security situation which has resulted in a record number of deaths of civilians and members of security  forces in the face of a resurgent Taliban in the country.

This is the fourth round of talks after the Trump administration initiated direct contact with the Taliban in July last year.

But last month’s meeting in the United Arab Emirates was facilitated by the Pakistani government, after Trump requested Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan help with the reconciliation process. 

Washington has ramped up pressure on Islamabad to play its role in overcoming the deadlock and moving towards intra-Afghan dialogue.

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