Washington's Top Diplomat Holds Meeting with Taliban Official in Qatar

Washington's Top Diplomat Holds Meeting with Taliban Official in Qatar

In a statement following her return, the State Department said only that Wells was in Doha, met with the ruling family and "the U.S. is exploring all avenues to advance a peace process in close consultation with the Afghan government".

The US department of state has confirmed that Ms Wells, of the Bureau of South and Central Asian Affairs, was in Qatar last week to meet government officials and talk about an Afghan peace process but did not confirm or deny the Taliban meeting.

United States officials neither confirmed nor denied a meeting took place, but noted Ms Wells had been in the Qatari capital Doha this week, where she met with government officials "to discuss recent progress towards an Afghan-owned, and Afghan-led peace process".

"The environment was positive and the discussion was useful", the Taleban official told The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because he was not authorised to speak to the media.

The militants called this week's meeting in Qatar productive, saying it laid the groundwork for future meetings and discussions.

It wasn't clear when the next meeting would be held or with whom, but the Taleban official who spoke to The AP was certain one would be held.

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The Taliban have argued that the Afghan government can not act independent of Washington.

The retreat to the cities is a searing acknowledgment that the USA -installed government in Afghanistan remains unable to lead and protect the country's sprawling rural population. They also say that unless they can allay USA concerns about the group, an agreement with Kabul would be meaningless.

The meeting in Doha came as the Afghan government is considering another unilateral ceasefire with the insurgents during the upcoming Eid festival in August to encourage the Taliban to come to the table for peace talks.

Waziri declined to comment, however, on whether the government was aware that the Americans had met with the Taliban in Doha. Other unidentified U.S. diplomats were also present, according to two Taliban officials.

News of the meeting follows a directive from the Trump administration for United States diplomats to talk directly with the Afghan militant group.

The U.S. still has around 14,000 troops in Afghanistan after President Trump chose to increase the U.S. military's presence there by several thousand past year.

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