Intra-Afghan Talks: US Envoy Meets Taliban to Review Doha Peace Deal

The U.S. Special Representative for Afghanistan Reconciliation Zalmay Khalilzad, met with the Taliban leaders is Qatar to review their implementation of the Doha Peace Deal’s conditions before they start intra-Afghan talks.

Khalilzad was accompanied by General Scott Miller, the commander of international troops under NATO’s Resolute Support Mission in Afghanistan.

Taliban spokesman Suhail Shaheen, who speaks for the political office in Doha, tweeted the details of the meeting saying their side was represented by Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, political deputy to Taliban chief.

While announcing the trip, the U.S. State Department said the “primary focus” will be to “obtain agreement between the Afghan parties on the practical next steps necessary for a smooth start to intra-Afghan negotiations.” In addition, he would also “review with the parties the implementation of all commitments in the U.S.-Taliban Agreement.”

Any progress on the intra-Afghan peace dialogue is tied to the conditions of the Doha Peace deal which stipulates the Taliban has to exchange prisoners and reduce violence, before they could start negotiating with the Afghan government.

Kabul is required to free 5,000 Taliban prisoners in exchange for Taliban releasing 1,000 Afghan personnel. So far, the Afghan government says it has released around 2,700 insurgents while Taliban has released 460 detainees. The Taliban has been disputing the government’s official figures, claiming that only 2,284 prisoners had been released.
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Battlefield hostilities have also spiked since the end of the Eid Al-Fitr ceasefire, with more than 37 Afghans, including at least 24 security officials killed on Friday itself. The Taliban has launched major raids against Afghan security forces and the government has stepped in.

The insurgents have stopped attacking the U.S.-led international forces in line with the Doha pact. In turn, the U.S. military had also halted direct attacks on the insurgents. However, the U.S. carried out two air raids against Taliban fighters last week with the intention to foil their plans to launch an attack on Afghan security checkpoints.

Only if the Taliban carries out its part of the deal and assures counterterrorism, would the U.S. withdraw troops from Afghanistan by mid-2021.

Khalilzad visits Pakistan

After his Doha meetings, Khalilzad travelled to Pakistan, where he met with their Chief of Army Staff General Qamar Javed Bajwa.

A statement by the Inter-Services Public Relations said they spoke about the Afghan reconciliation process, Pakistan’s security efforts along the borders with Afghanistan. Other topics also discussed were the presence of nearly 3 million Afghan refugees in Pakistan and the regional security.

“Both [Bajwa and Khalilzad] shared steps taken in this regard and agreed to continue working towards mutually agreed goals,” it said.

Many senior Taliban leaders are also based in Pakistan and their families live among Afghan refugees. Pakistan takes credit for facilitating the long-drawn U.S.-Taliban talks which had culminated with the Doha Peace Dela.

Khalilzad had earlier, praised Pakistan’s efforts for continuing regional peace and stability.

However, a recent UN report said Pakistan maintains close ties to Taliban leaders and supplies foreign fighters to the group.

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