Taliban confirm meeting with US peace envoy in Qatar

According to news reports US special representative Zalmay Khalilzad met Taliban in Doha

According to news reports US special representative Zalmay Khalilzad met Taliban in Doha

Zalmay Khalilzad, US Special Representative for Afghanistan Reconciliation, met with Taliban representatives in Qatar on Friday, the Wall Street Journal reported. "Both sides agreed to continue meeting in the future", Taliban spokesperson Zabiullah Mujahid said in a statement.

Terming the talks and Khalilzad's return to Kabul "as progress", Nazar Mohammad Mutmaen, an analyst familiar with Taliban leaders, said: "It is the first high-level meeting of U.S. officials with the Taliban and shows that both sides are giving peace a priority", he told Arab News.

Khalilzad's trip started in Afghanistan and he traveled to Pakistan, the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia and Qatar before returning to Kabul.

"Both sides discussed prospects for peace, and the U.S presence in Afghanistan", another Taliban official said.

In late July, Alice Wells, the State Department deputy assistant secretary for South and Central Asia, met Taliban officials in Doha for "preliminary" discussions amid persistent insurgent demands for direct negotiations with Washington.

"Both sides spoke (about) an end to the occupation and a peaceful solution to the Afghan issue ..."

The Office of the President, ARG Palace, in a statement said Ambassador Khalilzad presented a report regarding his recent trips to the regional countries and emphasized that the United States is prepared for an all-out support to an Afghan-led peace process and efforts are underway in this regard.

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The spokesman explained that the role of the USA, the Afghan government and other regional players is equally important and that is why ambassador Khalilzad is visiting other countries including the United Arab Emirates, Qatar and Saudi Arabia to elicit their support.

A USA -led worldwide coalition ousted the Taliban from power in 2001 for harboring al-Qaida leaders who allegedly plotted the September 11 attacks on American cities that year. "All citizens of Afghanistan must be a part of this reconciliation process", the statement quoted Khalilzad as saying.

"It was an introductory meeting in which an eight-member USA delegation held a detailed meeting with members of our political office", said a senior Taliban member.

Western and Asian diplomats in Kabul said Khalilzad, 67, has knowledge of the country's main languages, culture and politics that could help him engage with all stakeholders in the peace process.

In exchange, the Taliban want the Afghan government to release fighters from jails across the country and the swift removal of foreign forces fighting alongside Afghan troops.

Afghan-born Khalilzad, a high-profile former U.S. ambassador to Kabul, Baghdad and the United Nations, is known as a blunt negotiator with hawkish foreign policy views.

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