Washington: Senior US diplomats were on Sunday reported to have held face to face talks with Taliban commanders in Qatar without involving Afghan officials — a departure from a Trump administration policy.
The New York Times citing unnamed Taliban officials said the talks took place in Doha, where the Taliban has a political office to restart the stalled peace process.
“They involved several members of the Taliban political commission and Alice Wells, the State Department’s senior South Asia diplomat, as well as other unidentified American diplomats,” said The New York Times.
A State Department spokesperson, however, did not respond to questions about whether the talks took place. But the department did not deny that its diplomats had taken part in such talks — a significant shift in American strategy towards the Taliban in Afghanistan.
“Any negotiations over the political future of Afghanistan will be between the Taliban and Afghan government,” the Times quoted the spokeswoman, Stephanie R. Newman, as saying.
The unnamed Taliban officials emphasized that direct talks with US officials, in person and without the presence of Afghan officials or ministers, were a demand of the leadership of the insurgent group.
Similar efforts to hold peace talks between the Americans and the Taliban in Doha in 2015 faltered after the Afghan government denounced the process.
In Kabul, the Afghanistan President’s office, ARG, on Saturday welcomed any support for peace efforts.
“The government of Afghanistan welcomes every effort which supports the peace process under the auspices of the government,” said Durrani Waziri, a deputy spokeswoman for President Ashraf Ghani. “We appreciate help and support from any side that can facilitate the peace process.”