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Taliban Delegation, U.S. Negotiator In Pakistan For Talks

Updated

An Afghan Taliban delegation was due in Pakistan on October 2, the militant group said, as the U.S. special envoy for Afghan peace talks also met government officials there.

It was not known if the Taliban and U.S. official would meet.

Suhail Shaheen, a Taliban spokesman based in Qatar, told AFP that the overlapping visits to Pakistan were a "coincidence," but he left open the possibility that a meeting with U.S. special envoy Zalmay Khalilzad could take place.

"Why not? It depends on the Americans," Shaheen said.

One of the Taliban founders, Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, said the group’s delegation would discuss “important issues” with Pakistani officials in Islamabad, the country’s capital.

Baradar, head of the Taliban's political wing and normally based in Qatar, was one of the Taliban officials due to arrive in Pakistan, which supported the group in the early 1990s during Afghanistan’s civil war.

It was reported that the delegation will inform the Pakistani leadership of the factors that led to peace talks collapsing with the United States.

A U.S. Embassy spokesperson quoted by Reuters also said Zalmay Khalilzad, the U.S. special envoy for Afghan peace talks, was in Islamabad for talks with Pakistani officials.

Last month, U.S. President Donald Trump withdrew from a lengthy negotiation process whose main component was ending the nearly 18-year war in Afghanistan. One of its main clauses was for foreign troops to gradually withdraw in exchange for Taliban security guarantees, including not having the country be a haven for terrorist elements.

The Taliban also has plans to inquire about Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan’s comments that he would try to get Trump to reenter talks with the insurgent group.

The visit comes days after Khan’s address at the UN General Assembly session and his meeting with Trump.

A Pakistani official told Reuters that the Taliban would likely meet with Khan and that Islamabad would encourage a meeting between the extremist group and Khalilzad, who has been meeting with Pakistani officials for several days.

Despite its talks with U.S. officials, the Taliban so far has refused to negotiate with the government in Kabul, calling it a puppet of the West.

Sediq Sediqqi, a spokesman for Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, tweeted on October 2 that the government should be involved in any peace process.

"No progress will be imminent if a peace process is not owned and led by the Afghan government," he said.

Meanwhile, an Afghan official said Taliban fighters have launched attacks in districts in and around Taluqan, the capital of northern province of Takhar.

Jawad Hajri, the provincial governor's spokesman, on October 2 reported sporadic gunfire exchanges between Afghan forces and Taliban around Taluqan.

Separately, the Afghan Interior Ministry reported that six people, including two children, were killed and another two were wounded in a roadside bomb explosion in Afghanistan's eastern Kapisa Province.

The incident took place on October 1, ministry spokesman Nasrat Rahimi said.

Improvised explosive devices accounted for 20 percent of all civilian casualties in the first six months of the year, according to a report by the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan published late July.

In total, nearly 1,400 people were killed and 2,500 injured between January 1 and June 30, the report said.

With reporting by Reuters, dpa, and AFP
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