US-Taliban Talks Deliver ‘Positive’ Result, Says UAE Government

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Abu Dhabi (WAM): The United Arab Emirates government has said negotiations it is holding between the United States and Taliban have turned to be a useful exercise and will yield “positive” results.

The reconciliation talks produced “tangible results that are positive for all parties concerned”, the UAE‘s official WAM news agency said on Wednesday.

A new round of talks would be held in Abu Dhabi “to complete the Afghanistan reconciliation process”, it said without providing further details.

The two days of meetings in the Emirati capital are Washington’s latest attempt at ending Afghanistan’s 17-year conflict, which has cost it nearly $1 trillion since 2011 when it led an invasion to oust the Taliban following the September 11 attacks.

President George W Bush’s administration at the time accused the Afghan group of harbouring Osama bin Laden, the leader of al-Qaeda, which carried out the attacks.

The Taliban, which has not confirmed meeting Afghan officials, said it had held “preliminary talks” with the US envoy.

US envoy Zalmay Khalilzad said he had “productive” meetings in the UAE with Afghan and international partners “to promote intra-Afghan dialogue towards ending the conflict”.

Khalilzad tweeted he met with Pakistani officials on Wednesday to brief them before travelling to meet Afghan leaders in Kabul.

He said he would like to see a “roadmap” agreement reached before Afghan presidential elections, scheduled for April.

In another breakthrough, three representatives of the Haqqani network – Hafiz Yahya, Saadullah Hamas and Dr Faqeer – were also present at the talks, The Associated Press quoted an anonymous Taliban source as saying.

Although part of the Taliban, the Haqqani network has its own military committee. Its leader, Sirajuddin Haqqani, is deputy head of the Taliban. The group’s prowess on the battlefield makes its presence at the meeting particularly significant because it’s unlikely any agreement could be enforced without their support.

Other attendees included officials from Saudi Arabia and Pakistan, which along the Emirati hosts were the only other countries to recognise Taliban rule during its five-year reign starting in 1996.

The Taliban has refused to meet directly with the Afghan government, viewing it as a puppet of the United States.

The armed group controls nearly half of Afghanistan and is more powerful than at any time since the 2001 invasion.

“We called for an end to the invasion and they insisted on the exchange of prisoners,” a Taliban official told Reuters news agency of the talks, adding there was no discussion about a cease-fire.

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