Four countries — Afghanistan, Pakistan, China and the United States — were cloistered away late into the night Monday trying to lay a foundation they hope will eventually lead to peace talks between the Afghan government and Taliban fighters. But in the end, the biggest decision that appeared to be reached was to meet again.
Still an Afghan official, who was in the meeting but did not want to be identified because he is not authorized to speak to the media, said, “some good progress” was made during what turned out to be a marathon session.
The Taliban were not invited to the talks and a Taliban official, in a rare face-to-face meeting with The Associated Press, said there would be no direct talks with the Afghan government without first talking to the United States.
The final communique, however, seemed to rule that out.
“The participants emphasized the immediate need for direct talks between representatives of the Government of Afghanistan and representatives from Taliban groups in a peace process that aims to preserve Afghanistan’s unity, sovereignty and territorial integrity,” said the communique.
A small breakaway Taliban group said Monday it was ready for talks. The faction, which emerged following the revelation last year that the Taliban leader and founder Mullah Mohammed Omar had died two years ago, is believed to be relatively small and its absence from the battlefield is unlikely to be a game changer.
The Taliban have stepped up attacks across the country and while they have been unable to hold urban centers, the religious militia has operated in rural areas, often dispensing justice and challenging the government’s authority. Afghan security forces have taken heavy casualties, particularly since the withdrawal of NATO-led forces from Afghanistan last year. They complain bitterly about inadequate supplies and still rely heavily on U.S. airpower.
Story by the Associated Press
Former Lt. Col. Tony Shaffer on the Afghan peace talks
CCTV America interviewed Tony Shaffer, a senior fellow at the London Center for Policy Research and a retired Lieutenant Colonel in the U.S. military about the latest talks.