US ready for direct talks as Taliban await formal approach from Washington

The Afghan Taliban on Monday said that their political envoys in Qatar were awaiting the United States official communication in regards with the US offer of talks for peace in Afghanistan, Tahir Khan from the Daily Times reported. These comments have come in the aftermath of the Trump administration announcing its intentions of seeking direct talks with the Taliban to end the seventeen-year war in Afghanistan.

It is also worth noting that the militant group in Afghanistan has long demanded direct talks with the US calling the US a major stakeholder in the Afghan conflict. “We have seen reports about the US intention to hold direct talks with us. We still await a formal offer for the direct negotiations. We have not yet received anything officially,” a Taliban representative at the Qatar political office told Daily Times when he was approached for the Taliban reaction. “We want names of our leaders removed from the United Nations sanctions list as a confidence building measure ahead of the talks,” said the Taliban representative, who did not want to be identified.

The Taliban official also demanded reopening of the Taliban office in Qatar. The Taliban office in Qatar was shut down in 2013, after the then President Hamid Karzai criticized the group’s white flag and the plaque of Islamic Emirate displayed on their office. The Taliban representative further said, “We will start official talks with the US about the withdrawal of foreign forces and their concerns. We want direct negotiations with the US to find out a solution to the problem. We want talks on the withdrawal of the foreign troops first and then we will work for peace,”

Pakistan has always maintained that peace in Afghanistan is the responsibility of all key stakeholders, however Islamabad has also been pushing the Taliban to join the peace process and dialogue. In this regard, a contingent of Taliban envoys visited Pakistan in January this year to discuss any prospects of peace talks. However, the Taliban later insisted that they were only ready to hold talks directly with the US.

General John Nicholson, the top US commander, has recently said that the US was ready to join direct negotiations with the Taliban. His comments followed speculations in Washington that the US is looking for diplomatic efforts to initiate peace talks with the Taliban to end war in Afghanistan. Nicholson, who leads the NATO-led Resolute Support mission, said the US recognised it had a key role to play. “Our secretary of state, Mr [Mike] Pompeo, has said that we, the United States, are ready to talk to the Taliban and discuss the role of international forces. We hope that they realise this and that this will help to move the peace process forward”, Nicholson said.





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