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Taliban say 'general' discussion held with US special envoy

AP  |  Kabul 

The held talks with the US tasked with finding a negotiated end to Afghanistan's protracted and increasingly bloody war, a said Saturday.

In a statement, said the meeting with Zalmay Khalilzad was held Friday in the Middle Eastern state of Qatar, where the Taliban maintain a political office.

Taliban led the five-member delegation that discussed with Khalilzad "ways of finding a peaceful end to the occupation of Afghanistan," the statement said.

It went on to say that the presence of "foreign forces" in was the biggest concern of the Taliban.

Mujahid said the two sides discussed "finding a good way for the withdrawal of foreign forces from "

The said only that Khalilzad was in the Afghan capital Saturday meeting with and

Khalilzad arrived in from Qatar, winding up his first trip since being named

He also visited Pakistan, the and

In a statement Saturday, Ghani said simply that Khalilzad briefed a meeting of Afghanistan's top officials on the series of meetings he has held in the region since beginning his sojourn on October 4.

There was no mention of a meeting with the Taliban.

When he was appointed earlier this month, the said Khalilzad's job was to find a peaceful end to a war that began more than 17 years ago and that has cost in the neighbourhood of USD 900 billion, according to a report earlier this year from a US Congress appointed watchdog.

Of that USD 900 billion, John Sopko, the special general on Afghan reconstruction, said USD 720 billion was spent on US military operations.

"During this time, the human cost of the struggle against Afghan insurgents and terrorist groups has led to more than 2,400 American military fatalities, about 1,100 among other members of the NATO-led Coalition, and tens of thousands of Afghan deaths," Sopko said in a statement earlier this year.

US bemoaned the extraordinary cost of the while campaigning for president, when he advocated an end to US involvement in the conflict.

Since then, the US announced an Afghan strategy that called on to do more to push the Taliban to the negotiating table and to end safe havens for insurgents, an allegation denies.

Trump also handed greater decision-making powers to US generals on the ground in Afghanistan.

But the strategy has so far failed to stop Taliban aggression and even the US- appointed watchdog says nearly 50 per cent of the countryside is either under Taliban influence or in their control.

In many areas of the country, the government's writ is restricted to the cities and district centers.

Relentless Taliban attacks on Afghan military outposts have killed hundreds of personnel in recent months.

The Taliban have been persistent in their demand for direct talks with the

In July they said they held talks with Alice Wells, the most senior US at the time, also in Doha, the capital of

has neither confirmed nor denied direct talks with the Taliban.

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

First Published: Sat, October 13 2018. 19:55 IST