US, Taliban resume contacts to revive peace process – Newspaper

WASHINGTON: US and Taliban officials have resumed discussions to revive the peace process that was derailed last month after approaching an agreement, US media reported Monday.

The talks "touched on confidence-building measures that could include a possible exchange of prisoners or a reduction in violence." The Wall Street Journal reported.

A recent New York Times The report noted that the first meeting between the United States and the Taliban after the collapse of the peace talks was held in Islamabad last week when US and Taliban officials visited the Pakistani capital.

Diplomatic sources in Washington say that Pakistan is also playing a key role in these talks that aim to end the 18-year Afghan war. Earlier this month, Pakistan received the US special envoy Zalmay Khalilzad and the Taliban leader Mullah Baradar.

Although both sides said they were in Islamabad to talk separately with Pakistani officials, media reports claimed that Khalilzad also held separate talks with Mullah Baradar and that his main advisers also participated in this meeting.

In an interview for WSJRick Olson, former United States Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan, disagreed with the claim of US President Donald Trump last month that talks with the Taliban were dead.

Trump's statement that the talks were dead was a "rhetorical exaggeration," he said. "The structural conditions, a deteriorating deadlock, have not changed, so both sides must speak," said Olson, who also served as the US ambassador to Islamabad.

Laurel Miller, who was the interim special representative for Afghanistan from 2013 to 2017, believes that the United States should lead the resumption of the peace process.

"The United States will have to find a way to demonstrate, both to the parties in Afghanistan and to the important countries of the region, that the negotiation is still taken seriously and that it is not simply volatile," he said in a recent interview. to the National Public Radio, one of the largest radio networks in America.

Peace in Afghanistan remains difficult despite several recent efforts to find a negotiated agreement for this complex issue.

Earlier last month, President Trump made a surprise announcement and said he had invited the Taliban leaders to a presidential complex near Washington to sign a peace agreement with the United States. But he also said he canceled the plan after a Taliban attack near Kabul killed an American soldier and dozens of others.

But last week, at a rally in Minnesota, Trump said he was ready to commit to the Taliban again. "The biggest mistake our country made, in its history, was to enter the quicksand," Trump said. "We are pulling people out and trying to make good deals and we are going to bring our soldiers back home."

US officials told several media outlets that a reduction in violence could be based on the ceasefire that took place in June 2018, to allow Afghans to celebrate Eidul Fitr. The three-day ceasefire allowed Afghan rivals to meet and revived their desire for peace.

To recreate that atmosphere, both sides have also suggested an exchange of prisoners. This would include the US side that releases Anas Haqqani, a senior member of the Haqqani network affiliated with the Taliban.

In return, the Taliban would abandon two professors, an American and an Australian, who were kidnapped on their way home after teaching at the American University of Afghanistan in 2016.

Another suggestion, which is discussed at meetings between the United States and the Taliban, is to revive an agreement that both said they were ready to sign before President Trump canceled the ceremony.

The proposed agreement requires the withdrawal of approximately 5,000 US troops within 135 days of signing. The remaining 10,000 US soldiers would be removed within a year after signing the agreement.

In return, the Taliban would give up all ties to al Qaeda, a process that the United States has the right to verify.

Posted on Dawn, October 15, 2019

Source: https://www.dawn.com/news/1510927/us-taliban-resume-contacts-to-revive-peace-process

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