Taliban appoint co-founder as top negotiator for talks with US

Tuesday, 29 Jan, 2019

Zalmay Khalilzad, the US Special Representative for Afghanistan Reconciliation, said significant progress was made during the six days of talks held with the Taliban, aimed at finding a solution for the 17-year-old conflict.

Zalmay Khalilzad, the United States special representative for Afghanistan reconciliation who has led talks for the American side, seemed aware of these concerns when he tweeted he was travelling to Kabul to brief President Ghani and said that any deal "must include an intra-Afghan dialogue".

After the negotiations, U.S. special peace envoy Zalmay Khalilzad is expected to inform President Ashraf Ghani in Kabul about the achieved progress.

USA envoy Zalmay Khalilzad has met with the Taliban on a number of occasions in recent months in the latest bid to end America's longest war.

The Taliban also dismissed media reports claiming that an agreement for a ceasefire had been reached with the Afghanistan government.

The Taliban emerged in the early 1990s following the withdrawal of Soviet troops from Afghanistan, shortly before the demise of the Soviet Union.

The militants say they will only begin talks with the government once a firm date for the withdrawal of USA troops has been agreed.

"Reports by some media outlets about agreement on a ceasefire and talks with the Kabul administration are not true", Zabihullah Mujahid, the Taliban spokesman, said in a statement shared with Al Jazeera.

"They will lift a ban on Taliban leaders from blacklist and will exchange prisoners", said a Taliban source privy to the peace talks in Qatar.

Waheed Muzhda, an Afghan political analyst, said Baradar's inclusion is important because "he enjoys the full support of all the Taliban commanders".

- The ongoing US-Taliban meeting in Doha, which started on Monday, is the longest of such meetings.

Despite the presence of US-led foreign forces training, advising and assisting their Afghan counterparts 17 years after the United States led an invasion to drive them from power, the Taleban controls almost half of Afghanistan.

Pakistan facilitated the landmark first direct talks between the Afghan government and the Taliban in Islamabad in 2015, but the process broke down after Taliban announced the death of their long-term leader Mullah Omer, triggering a bitter power struggle within the militia.

The Taliban sources said a key provision to the deal included a ceasefire but they had yet to confirm a timeline and will only open talks with Afghan representatives once the ceasefire is implemented.

Afghan soil will not be used for attacks or threats against the U.S. or other countries, they said.

If Washington exits before a peace deal is in place there are fears the already-plummeting morale of Afghan security forces will shatter and that they will break along ethnic lines, igniting a full-scale civil war or even usher in a new era of Taliban rule.

However, he said added: "We have a number of issues left to work out".

During his interaction, President Ghani also revealed that since he took office in late 2014 Afghan security forces have lost more than 45,000 personnel while battling the Taliban. "The Afghan government is one of them", he added.

Last year Afghan President Ashraf Ghani offered a peace plan which encompassed a ceasefire and called for bringing the Taliban into the political mainstream.

Ghani admitted on Friday that 45,000 members of Afghanistan's security forces had been killed since he took power in 2014, and the United Nations has warned fighting is taking a record toll on civilians.