Taliban confirms meeting with US peace envoy in Qatar

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A Taliban delegation has met with US envoy Zalmay Khalilzad in Qatar to discuss ending the Afghan conflict, the militant group said Saturday, in the first official confirmation of talks between the two sides.

The meeting with Khalilzad and other American officials took place in Doha on Friday, Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said in a statement sent to journalists.

The Taliban had reportedly met with US officials in July after an unprecedented ceasefire in June which fuelled hopes that negotiations could bring an end to fighting after 17 years. The meeting was not confirmed on the record by either side.

But a wave of attacks by the Taliban and ISIS extremist group in recent months has poured cold water on the nascent optimism for peace.

A spokesman for the US embassy in Kabul declined to comment on the Taliban statement.

During the latest meeting, the Taliban told Khalilzad that the presence of foreign forces in Afghanistan was a “big obstacle” to peace, Mujahid said.

Both sides “agreed to continue such meetings”.

Last month Khalilzad, 67, an Afghan-born former US ambassador to Kabul and Iraq, joined the US State Department team to lead the reconciliation effort and peace talks with the Taliban. Read more

In another security development in Afghanistan, a motorcycle carrying explosives blew up among supporters of an Afghan election candidate on Saturday, killing at least 12 people, officials said, in the latest attack on a political rally. Full story