Taliban, US Meeting Again Monday 12/17 06:12
ISLAMABAD (AP) -- The Taliban say they are holding "another" meeting on
Monday with U.S. officials, this time in the United Arab Emirates and also
involving Saudi, Pakistani and Emirati representatives in the latest attempt to
bring a negotiated end to Afghanistan's 17-year war.
Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid offered no further details.
Khalil Minawi, director of Afghanistan's state-run Bakhtar news agency, also
confirmed the meeting. He said on Twitter that officials from the United
States, Afghanistan, Pakistan and the UAE held meetings Sunday ahead of "the
Pakistani-sponsored U.S.-Taliban meeting."
While Afghan officials are not expected to attend Monday's meeting, their
presence in the UAE is a significant step in efforts to get the two sides
talking. So far, the Taliban have refused to hold direct talks with the Afghan
government, calling it a puppet of America and insisting only on negotiating
with the U.S.
Also significant is the presence of the Saudis and Emiratis --- both have
significant influence over the Taliban --- apparently geared toward pushing the
insurgents toward concessions that could eventually lead to face-to-face talks
Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Pakistan were the only three countries to
recognize the Taliban government during its five-year rule that ended with
their 2001 overthrow. Washington, meanwhile, has considerable sway over the
Afghan government, which it heavily bankrolls. The U.S. has spent $1 trillion
in Afghanistan since ousting the Taliban and the war there has become America's
While the U.S. State Department has neither denied nor confirmed previous
meetings with the Taliban, Washington's special peace envoy Zalmay Khalilzad
previously said he has held several meetings with all Afghans involved in the
protracted conflict --- a reference that would include the Taliban, who control
or hold say in nearly half of Afghanistan.
A Taliban statement last month said they held three consecutive days of
talks with Khalilzad in Qatar, a Mideast country where the insurgent group
maintains a political office. Afterward, Khalilzad went to Kabul where he urged
Afghan President Ashraf Ghani to cobble together a team that could hold talks
with the Taliban with the intent of reaching an agreement on a "roadmap for the
future of Afghanistan."
Khalilzad said he would like to see this agreement reached before Afghan
presidential elections, scheduled for next April.
Since his appointment in September, Khalilzad has tried to jumpstart peace
talks and has made several tours of the region. Earlier this month, he held
meetings in Islamabad. Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan later said Khalilzad
asked Pakistan to assist in getting the Taliban to the negotiating table.
Khan said Pakistan would sponsor the UAE talks and insisted that a military
solution is not the answer.
President Donald Trump has long accused Islamabad of taking billions of U.S.
dollars while doing nothing to aid peace efforts and has assailed Khan since
his election as prime minister last summer. Washington has suspended hundreds
of millions of dollars in military aid to Pakistan.
Khan meanwhile has responded to Trump's rebukes by saying that his country
was drawn into the war on terror although no Pakistanis were involved in the
Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, and that the war has cost Pakistan $123
billion. Khan has also described the U.S. contribution of $20 billion to
Pakistan as minuscule.