conflict Afghanistan Taliban peace talks
February 12 2019 - 5:59 PM
Taliban unveils negotiating team ahead of US peace talks
Kabul, Feb 12, 2019 (AFP) - The Taliban announced Tuesday a 14-member team
to meet American negotiators this month in Doha, including five former
Guantanamo Bay inmates and a high-profile militant behind bars in Afghanistan.
United States special envoy Zalmay Khalilzad has undertaken extensive
recent peace talks with the Taliban about ending the 17-year war in
Afghanistan, with another round expected in late February.
The expanded negotiating team unveiled by the insurgents includes Anas
Haqqani, who was captured in 2014 and whose older brother is deputy Taliban
leader and head of the Haqqani network.
A spokesman for President Ashraf Ghani, whose administration was not
invited to the most recent round of Taliban talks in January, flatly denied
Anas would be freed.
"Anas Haqqani is in prison, and no decision has been taken for his
release," the spokesman, Haroon Chakhansuri, said on Twitter.
"The people of Afghanistan can rest assured that justice will be ensured."
The Taliban has long demanded that Anas be released, saying he is a
student. Afghan authorities accuse him of a being a high-level player in the
The Taliban affiliate is a designated terror group by Washington that has
been blamed for some of the most shocking and brutal attacks across
Afghanistan since the US invasion of 2001.
"Anas Haqqani was captured by the Americans, and should be released to
better help with the talks," Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid told AFP via
The insurgents said the team announced Tuesday "would continue the current
peace talks with the Americans".
Khalilzad, who last met the militants in January, has said he hopes to
strike a deal with the Taliban before the Afghan presidential elections in
But he has urged caution, saying he did not trust America's long-time
adversary and that major hurdles remain.
The special envoy has stressed that any US troop withdrawal would be
dependent on conditions on the ground, and that the Taliban must sit down with
Kabul and come to an agreement.
The Taliban refuse to talk to Ghani's government in Kabul, which they
consider a US puppet.
Khalilzad is leading a large delegation on a six-nation tour, including
Afghanistan, to boost the peace process.
He and other US negotiators are expected to meet the Taliban in Qatar,
where the insurgents have their political office, later this month.
The insurgents, who were toppled by US-led forces in 2001, last week held
separate talks in Moscow with a senior delegation of Afghan politicians,
including chief Ghani rivals.
The two-day talks were the Taliban's most significant engagement with
Afghan leaders in years, though without the involvement of the government it
was unclear what impact they will have.