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US, Taliban officials discussing resumption of peace talks: report

13 Oct 2019 TheHill

U.S. and Afghan Taliban officials have started conversations aimed at resuming peace talks that collapsed last month, The Wall Street Journal reported Sunday.    

U.S. envoy Zalmay Khalilzad met with the Taliban earlier this month in Pakistan, discussing a potential prisoner swap or cutbacks in violence, the Journal reported. 

It was the first meeting with the Taliban in a month, the newspaper noted, adding that Khalilzad also met with international diplomats in New York late last month to go over similar issues. 

The prisoner swap could allow Anas Haqqani, a top member of Haqqani network, a group associated with the Taliban, to be set free, sources told the Journal. The Taliban would then release two professors, one American and one Australian, who were captured after teaching at the American University of Afghanistan in 2016.

A State Department spokesperson told The Hill that Khalilzad visited Islamabad for "consultations with authorities in Pakistan" as a follow-up to conversations between President Trump and Prime Minister Ahmed Khan at the United Nations General Assembly.

"These meetings did not represent a re-start of the Afghan Peace Process," the spokesperson said.

The Taliban also told the Journal that it is ready to sign an agreement around which previous peace talks were centered.

“The agreement along with its annexes were finalized after long discussions, now they are ready to be signed,” Taliban spokesman Suhail Shaheen said. “Now it is up to the U.S., whether they want the issue resolved through peaceful means or military means.”

Under the agreement, the U.S. would remove about 5,000 troops from Afghanistan within 135 days of the deal's signing. Other troops would be withdrawn a year later.  

The Taliban would agree to cut ties with al Qaeda, according to the Journal.  

Trump announced the peace talks between the U.S. and the Taliban were dead after the group claimed responsibility for a bombing in Kabul that killed a U.S. soldier and dozens of other people last month. 

He had planned to invite Taliban officials to Camp David in a secret meeting for peace talks.

Original Link: https://thehill.com/policy/international/middle-east-north-africa/465588-us-taliban-officials-discussing-resumption-of

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