Taliban, Afghan officials restart secret peace talks without Pakistan

A splinter group of the Taliban said it is ready to end fighting if the country gaurantees the exit of the foreign troops. Photograph:( Getty )

WION London, United Kingdom Oct 18, 2016, 10.26 AM (IST)

The Taliban and representatives of the Afghan government have restarted secret peace talks in the Gulf state of Qatar without Pakistan, sources told British publication the Guardian on Tuesday.

Sources told the newspaper that two rounds of discussions have already been held in September and October. Among those present at the meeting were a senior American diplomat, former Tabliban chief Mullah Omar's brother, Mullah Abdul Manan Akhund, and the Afghan representatives. According to sources no Pakistani official took part in the discussions. 

The presence of the US officials helped make the meeting possible given the Taliban's reluctance to meet directly with the Afghan government. These are the first known negotiations since the Pakistan-brokered peace process broke down following the death of Mullah Omar's successor Mullah Akhtar Mansoor in a US drone strike in May, 2016.

The paper said Taliban officials felt the "talks in early September went positively and were held in a trouble-free atmosphere", in which Akhund sat face to face with Afghanistan's intelligence chief, Mohammed Masoom Stanekzai.  

Afghan government officials have denied any knowledge of the secret meetings. Relations between the governments in Kabul and Islamabad have deteriorated over the past year, with Afghanistan and the US alleging that Pakistan is harbouring the Taliban and not doing enough to bring the group to the negotiating table. Pakistan has denied the accusations. 

A close aide of Afghan President Ashraf Ghani said both the Taliban and the government in Kabul have become deeply disillusioned with Pakistan. "Pakistan was double dealing and insincere with the Afghan government. We no longer think we need Pakistan and the Taliban think the same thing," he said. 

Under the new Taliban leader, Haibatullah Akhundzada, fighting has raged across Afghanistan and the Taliban captured the city of Kunduz for the second time and were building on Lashkargah in Helmand. 

A splinter group of the Taliban in Afghanistan has said it is ready to end fighting if the country gaurantees the exit of the foreign troops, local media reported. 

Khaama Press told that the group led by Mullah Mohammad Rasool, an arch rival of the slain Taliban leader Mansoor, has said they are prepared to sit for peace talks with the government. He added the process should be owned and led by the Afghan people. 

(WION with inputs from agencies)