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US resumes Taliban talks in Doha

December 7, 2019

The US has resumed talks with the Taliban in Qatar, a US source said, in a renewed bid to end the long war in Afghanistan. It comes months after the US president abruptly halted diplomatic engagement with the insurgents.

The US has resumed talks with the Taliban in Qatar
Image: picture-alliance/AP Photo/Qatar Ministry of Foreign Affairs

US talks with the Taliban were resurrected in the Qatari capital on Saturday, according to reports. 

"The US rejoined talks today in Doha. The focus of discussion will be reduction of violence that leads to intra-Afghan negotiations and a ceasefire," a US source told the AFP news agency on Saturday. 

The statement comes after the US special envoy for Afghanistan, Zalmai Khalilzad, made a two-day visit to Kabul to launch an "accelerated effort" to get Afghans on both sides of the conflict to the negotiating table to plot a road map to a post-war Afghanistan.

During his trip, Khalilzad held talks with top Afghan government officials and politicians, including ex-President Hamid Karzai.

On December 4, the US State Department said Khalilzad "will rejoin the talks with the Taliban in Doha to discuss steps that could lead to intra-Afghan negotiations and a peaceful settlement to the ongoing conflict in the country."

A deal this time?

In September, the US and the Taliban had appeared on the verge of signing a deal that may have seen Washington begin withdrawing thousands of troops in return for security guarantees.

It was also expected to pave the way toward direct talks between the Taliban and the Afghan government in Kabul and, ultimately, a possible peace agreement after more than 18 years of war.

But that same month, Trump abruptly broke off the diplomatic engagement with the Taliban, and canceled an invitation to the insurgents to join secret talks at his US retreat in Camp David, after a particularly deadly spate of violence broke out in Kabul. Twelve people were killed, including a US soldier.

During a surprise visit to a US military base in Afghanistan last week, Trump said the Taliban "want to make a deal." Trump has repeatedly promised to put a stop to "endless wars" with US involvement.

Trump said last week that the Taliban 'want to make a deal'
Trump said last week that the Taliban 'want to make a deal'Image: picture-alliance/dpa/AP/A. Brandon

Fragile security

War-ravaged Afghanistan has been facing growing insecurity and intensifying political divisions over the past year.

Repeated attacks in 2018 and 2019 have killed or wounded hundreds of innocent civilians, and shown the world the precarious state of security in the conflict-stricken country. The incidents have plunged war-weary Afghan citizens into a state of despair and highlighted the limitations faced by the government in Kabul in ensuring public security.

The Taliban — a militant group fighting to restore their version of strict Islamic law — control or hold sway over nearly half of Afghanistan and stage near-daily attacks on targets across the country. The insurgents have so far refused to hold direct talks with the Afghan government, which they do not recognize.

Pakistan has been under pressure from Kabul and Washington to stop offering safe havens to militants blamed for attacks in Afghanistan, a charge Islamabad denies, insisting that its influence over the insurgents has been exaggerated.

sri/stb (AFP, AP)

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