Aimed at ending the 17-year old Afghan conflict, U.S. special envoy Zalmay Khalilzad arrived in Doha to meet one of the Afghan Taliban’s co-founders in Qatar.
The meet is said to be the highest-level engagement between the two sides as part of Afghanistan’s peace process.
“Just finished a working lunch with Mullah [Abdul Ghani Baradar] and his team. First time we’’ve met. Now moving on to talks” aimed at finding a negotiated solution to Afghanistan’s 17-year war, Khalilzad tweeted.
Baradar was released in October after spending eight years in Pakistani custody, but until now has remained in Pakistan and has not made any public appearances. Baradar helped Mullah Omar, who died in 2013, to form the Taliban movement in Afghanistan in 1994.
He fled to Pakistan after the Taliban was toppled by the US-led invasion in 2001. He was arrested during a Pakistani security operation in 2010.
The talks have gained momentum in recent months as the US has decided to engage with the Taliban, which has been waging a deadly armed rebellion since the group was removed from power.
The latest round of negotiations follows six days of talks in Doha last month that sparked hopes of a breakthrough.
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Then, the two sides walked away with a “draft framework” that included a Taliban vow to prevent Afghanistan from becoming a haven for international terror groups.
There had been no accord on a US withdrawal or a ceasefire, however, issues which have derailed attempts at peace talks in the past, while the Government in Kabul voiced fears it was being sidelined from the talks.