Afghan Taliban cancel peace talks with US officials

PESHAWAR: The Afghan Taliban have pulled out of the fourth round of peace talks with the United States in Qatar citing disagreement on the agenda of the talks.

The talks were expected to be held in Doha today (Wednesday) after earlier cancelation of talks by the Taliban representatives in Saudi Arabia over the latter’s insistence to include a representative of the Afghan government in the talks. It is understood that the same issue has again emerged as the bone of contention. Saudi Arabia and some other regional powers were insisting on inclusion of Afghan representatives in the peace talks being one of major stakeholders, but the Taliban have rejected these requests and insisted that they will only held talks with the US who are their prime adversaries in the in the 17-year war. They insist that the government in Kabul is mere a puppet regime installed on behest of the US and it cannot take or implement any important decision.

Earlier, the Taliban rejected the impression that they were going for ceasefire. They said the withdrawal of foreign troops from Afghan soil was their prime demand, which will remain the same. Media reports said the Pakistani and Irani officials are trying to convince the Taliban side to show flexibility on inclusion of Afghan government in the talks, but no progress on this issue was made.

The negotiations for Afghan peace which were held in December last year were participated by Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.

The Afghan peace talks were initiated after US President Donald Trump requested Prime Minister Imran Khan through a letter to help the US in initiating talks with the Afghan Taliban. Pakistan accepted the request and facilitated the talks between the US and Taliban within few days of receiving the US president’s request. Three rounds of talks have been held so far during which the main issues of the US withdrawal, prisoner exchange and lifting of travel restrictions on Taliban leaders were discussed.

It is understood that the Taliban and the US are also in dispute over the release of prisoners and no headway has been made in this regard.

Meanwhile, Afghan President’s Special Envoy on Afghan Reconciliation Omer Daudzai called on Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi at the Foreign Office on Tuesday and discussed reconciliation process.

Qureshi assured Daudzai that Pakistan will continue to play role for bringing lasting peace in Afghanistan.