Kabul, Feb 25: US and Taliban officials will meet in Qatar for fresh talks on Monday, seeking an end to 17 years of grinding conflict in Afghanistan.
This time Washington’s special envoy Zalmay Khalilzad, who has spearheaded the months-long effort, is expected to face an expanded Taliban negotiating team headed by Sher Mohammad Abbas Stanikzai, the Taliban’s former deputy minister of foreign affairs.
Marathon talks held in Doha last month stoked hopes of a breakthrough after the two sides walked away with a “draft framework” that included a Taliban commitment to prevent Afghanistan from becoming a safe haven for international militant groups, Dawn reported.
Neither side has stated how long they expect the meetings to last or the details of what will be discussed. Analysts say this round will likely see the Taliban push for the removal of its leaders from a UN travel blacklist, matched with pressure from the US for the militants to open a dialogue with the Afghan government.
“Both sides are going into this process with open minds and a sense of urgency as the weather gets warmer and fighting season draws closer,” Graeme Smith, a consultant based with International Crisis Group, said.
The Taliban have steadfastly refused to negotiate with the Afghan government, whom they dismiss as “puppets”. They have also stated that without a withdrawal timetable further progress is “impossible”.
US President Donald Trump’s apparent eagerness to end America’s longest war, the Afghan government’s fear of being sidelined, and the coming of spring all weigh heavily on the process. (UNI)