File Taliban training camp CREDIT PA
Afghanistan

Taliban-US Talks Are In 'Critical' Phase, Taliban Spokesman Says

The seventh and latest round of peace talks between the US and Taliban is underway in Qatar.

File Taliban training camp CREDIT PA

Library image of a Taliban training camp (Picture: PA).

The seventh and latest round of peace talks between the United States and Taliban is "critical", said Taliban spokesman Suhail Shaheen.

The second day of talks with Washington's peace envoy Zalmay Khalilzad is underway in Qatar, where the militant group maintains a political office.

Mr Shaheen said both sides are looking for "tangible results" as they try to hammer out the fine print of agreements that will see the eventual withdrawal of over 20,000 US and Nato troops from Afghanistan, and end America's longest-running war.

The agreements are also expected to provide guarantees that Afghanistan will not again harbour terrorists to carry out attacks worldwide.

The talks began on Saturday and are expected to continue into the next week.

The two sides sat down to negotiate just days after US secretary of state Mike Pompeo said Washington was hopeful of a deal to end Afghanistan's protracted war by 1 September.

Mr Pompeo and Mr Khalilzad have both said the final accord will include not only agreements with the Taliban on troop withdrawal and guarantees of a non-threatening Afghanistan, but also agreement on intra-Afghan dialogue and a permanent cease-fire.

Until now the Taliban have refused direct talks with the Afghan government while holding two separate meetings with a wide array of prominent Afghans from Kabul, including former president Hamid Karzai, members of the former northern alliance that fought the Taliban during its five-year rule as well as members of the government.

The Taliban have said they will meet government officials but as ordinary Afghans, labelling President Ashraf Ghani's government a US puppet and noting that the US is the final arbiter on their central issue, which is troop withdrawal.

The Taliban have refused a ceasefire until the withdrawal is complete, saying that to restart their insurgency if the US reneges on its promises could be difficult.

The upcoming elections have been criticised by many of his political opponents who often point to last October's parliamentary polls.

A biometric identification system aimed at reducing election fraud was prematurely rolled out for the polls, with the few people trained on the machines not showing up on election day.

Mr Khalilzad has also suggested that presidential elections could hamper reaching a peace agreement.