The U.S. special peace envoy for Afghanistan, Zalmay Khalilzad, has questioned the Taliban's determination to end the 17-year war, after the group's representatives refused to meet with an Afghan government-backed negotiating team.
"We have to wait and see their forthcoming steps," Khalilzad told Afghan news agency Ariana News on December 20, according to a translation of the interview provided by the U.S. Embassy in Kabul.
Khalilzad said that, while he was certain the Afghan government wanted to end the conflict, it was unclear whether the Taliban were "genuinely seeking peace."
Khalilzad's remarks came after his latest face-to-face meeting earlier this week with the Taliban, which was held in Abu Dhabi, the capital of the United Arab Emirates and was also attended by Saudi Arabia and Pakistan.
The U.A.E. hailed the talks as "positive for all parties concerned."
And the Saudi ambassador to Washington, Khalid bin Salman, said that the meetings will produce "very positive results by the beginning of next year."
But the Taliban would not meet with a 12-person Afghan delegation, Khalilzad said, describing the decision as "wrong."
"If the Taliban are really seeking peace, they have to sit with the Afghan government ultimately to reach an agreement on the future political settlement in Afghanistan," the former U.S. ambassador to Iraq and Afghanistan said.
The Taliban has refused direct talks with the Afghan government, which it says is an American puppet.