Taliban reject reports of secret talks with Afghanistan

Taliban reject reports of secret talks with Afghanistan

Taliban officials demanded that the group be officially recognized as a political movement, its leaders’ names be removed from a United Nations blacklist and all prisoners be released. Officials in Kabul could not be immediately reached for comment.Doha has been a centre for Taliban diplomacy since the movement was granted permission to set up an office in the Qatari capital in 2013, although that initiative became one of the many attempts to start a peace process that ultimately came to nothing following complaints from the Afghan government.The Guardian said the talks were attended by Mullah Abdull Manan Akhund, brother of Taliban founder and long-time leader Mullah Omar who died in 2013.No Pakistani officials were present in the latest talks, sources said.Taliban officials and the Afghan government have held new secret talks in Qatar aimed at restarting peace negotiations to end the country’s long war, three officials say, though questions remain over which faction of the insurgency is doing the talking. Deadly terror attacks orchestrated by the Taliban have also targeted Afghanistan’s military and police forces, as well as civilians. They added that United States officials were part of the process, although they did not specify whether they were directly involved in talks.Although an Afghan government official confirmed that Mr Stanekzai had made at least one recent trip to Doha, both President Ashraf Ghani’s spokesman and Ismail Qasemiyar, a senior member of the High Peace Council charged with overseeing peace talks, denied any knowledge of the meetings.In response, he said, Taliban officials demanded that the group be officially recognised as a political movement, its leaders’ names be removed from a United Nations blacklist and all prisoners be released.The Taliban’s latest offensives in the north and south of Afghanistan have had killed dozens of people and displaced tens of thousands, officials said on Monday.To further bolster the authority of the Doha talks, Mohammad Yaqoob, Mullah Omar’s son, is reportedly expected to join the negotiations soon, a Taliban source said, according to the Guardian.According to Reuters, two Taliban officials said on Tuesday that the militant movement held informal, secret peace talks with the Afghan government earlier this month in Qatar, but a Taliban spokesman denied they took place.In late September, it was revealed that the Taliban controls over 10 percent of the country’s population, while Army General John Nicholson, the head of NATO’s Resolute Support mission in Afghanistan, said the Afghan security forces that took over from the USA in 2014 remain under constant pressure from the insurgents. Troops were sent to Lashkar Gah from Kabul to remove insurgents and the Taliban captured the provincial capital of Kunduz earlier this month, before it was retaken by the Afghan army. That likely comes as part of larger questions about the group’s direction, years after the September 11, 2001, attacks and the subsequent US -led invasion of Afghanistan over the Taliban harboring al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden.

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