For the first time, a comprehensive delegation from Taliban’s leadership team and members of Haqqani network has met with representatives from the United States in Abu Dhabi.
In their meeting with representatives from US, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) in Abu Dhabi, the Taliban once again called for the withdrawal of foreign forces from Afghanistan.
While the Afghan government’s peace delegation is on its fourth day in Abu Dhabi, the Taliban has rejected any kind of meeting with the actual government delegation.
On Wednesday, US Special Representative for Afghanistan Reconciliation, Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad met with Pakistani leaders in Islamabad and is expected to hold talks with the Afghan leaders in Kabul tonight.
“Just met w #Pakistan leaders to update them on the state of play following our meetings in UAE. Looking forward to meeting Afghan leaders in Kabul, #Afghanistan tonight,” Khalilzad tweeted.
The US embassy in Kabul in a statement said Khalilzad arrived today in Kabul to update President Ghani and CEO Abdullah on his engagements with regional partners and other interested parties, to reach a negotiated settlement on the conflict in Afghanistan.
“Special Representative Khalilzad arrived in Kabul after three days of meetings in Abu Dhabi, including the fourth round of quadrilateral meetings between the US, Afghanistan, the UAE and Saudi Arabia. The meetings were part of efforts by the US and international partners to promote an intra-Afghan dialogue aimed at ending the conflict in Afghanistan,” the statement said.
On the last day of the meeting in Abu Dhabi, the Taliban representatives held talks with the delegations from Saudi Arabia, UAE and Pakistan.
The Taliban have said that at the meeting, the group focused on the withdrawal of foreign forces from Afghanistan, including an end to the air strikes, better treatment of Taliban prisoners and their release.
Meanwhile, sources close to Taliban officials have said that some prominent personalities of Taliban’s leadership council and members of Haqqani network also attended the meeting.
Assad known as Hamas, Faqeer, Yahya from Haqqani network, while Amir Khan Mutaqi, Mulla Abbas and Sediqullah from the group’s leadership council attended the meeting.
“It indicates that possibly Anas Haqqani will be swapped with the lecturers of the American University of Afghanistan... and there is the possibility that more Taliban could be released from jail,” said political analyst Hassan Haqyar.
President Ashraf Ghani’s special envoy for regional affairs on consensus for peace and head of the High Peace Council (HPC) secretariat, Umer Daudzai, on Wednesday said that peace will come to Afghanistan in the near future and that good improvements have been made in this regard.
Addressing an event in Kabul, Daudzai said, “Soon you will witness a team that will start work on the peace deal and peace is near; not in the coming days but in the coming months."
Daudzai said peace is the right way to solve Afghanistan’s problems.
“The idea of eliminating the Taliban was incorrect, while powerful countries have come to the conclusion that the idea was wrong,” he said. “Powerful countries failed in eliminating the Taliban, but they also had success and that success is that we possess a security and defense force of which we are proud... ”
Meanwhile, officials from the HPC have called on Afghan political parties and movements not to harm the peace process by creating divisions.
“If there is some sort of division here, the government chants one slogan and the political parties chant another slogan, this will never help the peace process,” said HPC chief Mohammad Karim Khalili.
“We also see changes in the Taliban’s approach. Peace is also being considered between the Taliban and this is a good opportunity,” Daudzai said. “The right time has come to join the convoy of the peace process. The High Peace Council is leading the peace convoy because it is the only institution which has taken its legitimacy from the nation.”
The US department of state has once again said that the only solution to the conflict in Afghanistan is a political solution and talks.
“I’ve seen some of the reports. The meetings in Abu Dhabi are part of United States' efforts to promote an intra-Afghan dialogue towards ending the conflict in Afghanistan. And this is part of our South Asia strategy. We have long said that war in Afghanistan will only end when Afghans sit together with mutual respect and acceptance and discuss a political road map for their future,” said deputy spokesperson to US Department of State, Robert Palladino.
Sources close to Taliban have said the Taliban representatives are staying in the same hotel in Abu Dhabi where delegations from Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, US and UAE are staying, but the Afghan government’s delegation is in a separate hotel.
The Taliban have said that the two sides, after meeting their elders, would decide on holding the next round of meetings.