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Kabul govt key to peace talks, US says, after Taliban progress

AFP  |  Kabul 

Afghanistan said on Monday it has been reassured by Washington that progress in talks with the Taliban remains geared towards facilitating peace negotiations with the government in Kabul.

US special envoy Zalmay Khalilzad arrived in Afghanistan late Sunday to update officials, including President Ashraf Ghani, on six days of talks with Taliban representatives in Qatar.

Both the US and the Taliban have cited "progress" as hopes rise that the unprecedented length of the negotiations could mean a deal paving the way to Afghan peace talks may be in sight, although sticking points remain.

But Afghan authorities have previously complained of being excluded from the discussions, and warned that any deal between the US and the Taliban would require Kabul's endorsement.

"The US insisted in their talks with the Taliban that the only solution for lasting peace in Afghanistan is intra-Afghan talks," Khalilzad said, according to a statement released by the presidential palace in Kabul.

"My role is to facilitate" such talks between the insurgents and Kabul, Khalilzad said according to Ghani, adding that the discussions are ongoing.

The Taliban have long refused to negotiate with the Afghan government, branding them as "puppets".

The palace said Khalilzad also confirmed that no agreement had been made on the withdrawal of foreign troops, adding that any such decision would be coordinated and discussed in detail with the Afghan government.

The Taliban have insisted on the withdrawal of foreign troops, and US President Donald Trump's clear eagerness to end America's longest war has weighed on the negotiations.

On Saturday Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said that until a withdrawal timetable is decided progress on other issues is "impossible".

The palace's statement also said Khalilzad denied reports that the issue of an interim government had been raised, and that the US and the Taliban had agreed on a timetable for a US withdrawal and a ceasefire.

"We have discussed a ceasefire with the Taliban, but there is no progress so far," Khalilzad said, according to the statement.

Speculation of an interim government is "absolutely wrong", he added, saying there were no discussions about the future government in the talks with the Taliban.

Afghans have expressed tentative hopes about the talks tempered by fears about an American exit, with Afghan security forces taking staggering losses, the government facing election upheaval, and civilians paying a disproportionate price after nearly two decades of bloodshed.

The Taliban and US officials have agreed to continue negotiations, though no date has been publicly announced.

(This story has not been edited by Business Standard staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)

First Published: Mon, January 28 2019. 14:45 IST