The Afghan government was aware of three sessions of talks between US officials and members of the Taliban’s political office in Qatar, a High Peace Council (HPC) official said on Wednesday.
US officials confirmed late last month that US Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for the Bureau of South and Central Asian Affairs Alice Wells met with Taliban officials to discuss ways to lay the groundwork for peace talks.
The aim of the discussion was to build on the momentum created by the recent three-day ceasefire over Eid al-Fitr, US officials said.
Taliban political office in Qatar has confirmed three sessions of talks were held with US officials in Doha.
The head of HPC secretariat, Mohammad Akram Khpulwak, said Afghanistan has inched closer towards peace.
He said efforts by the US and Muslim countries are aimed at facilitating direct peace talks between the Afghan government and the Taliban. Khpulwak added that no commitment has been made by the US to the Taliban during the talks.
“Official talks have not started by anyone in any place so far. These talks are aimed at facilitating direct talks with the Taliban. I am sure that direct talks (between government and Taliban) will start,” he said.
Taliban has confirmed to Reuters that US officials held talks with their political office in Qatar three times in the last few months.
Sources close to the Taliban said the fourth round of talks between the group and US officials will be more serious and will focus on fundamental issues around peace talks.
“Such talks were preliminary. The next round of talks will discuss more fundamental issues about the peace negotiations,” said Nazar Mohammad Motmaen, a political affairs analyst.
“Any individual and any institution which takes steps for peace is worthy of appreciation and it can take us one step closer towards peace,” said Habiba Sarabi, deputy chairperson of HPC.
Afghan government has said on many occasions the process will be an Afghan-led and Afghan-owned peace initiative. However, some analysts said government is often informed by media outlets about such talks.
US officials last month made it clear that the Afghan government was fully involved in the effort to jump-start peace talks.
According to a report by the Wall Street Journal last month, the US and Afghan officials warned that official negotiations, if they ever happen, could be months away, and that those efforts, like previous attempts, could collapse.
But US officials said they had seen a serious, new interest from the Taliban in peace talks.