By: Kyle James | 10-14-2018 | News
Photo credit: @AJEnglish | Twitter

End Of 17-Year War Is Near As U.S. Officials Agree To Meet With Taliban Leaders

Almost since I can remember, the U.S. has been at war on terror in the middle east but now U.S. officials have finally agreed to a meeting with Afghan Taliban officials. The meeting could see the officials from both sides discuss a possible negotiation to the end of the 17-year war. Officials from the Afghan Taliban say that the United States has agreed to discuss the withdrawal of its troops from Afghanistan in a one on one meeting in Qatar.

A precursory meeting already took place in Doha on Friday where representatives from the armed terrorist group and U.S. envoy Zalmay Khalilzad discussed the Taliban's conditions to ending the nearly two-decade-long war. "Six US delegates arrived in Doha to have a meeting with our Taliban leaders and agreed to discuss all issues, including the pullout of foreign troops," a Taliban official said. "But, it was a preliminary meeting and all issues were discussed in general, not in detail."

In 2017, U.S. President Donald Trump increased the number of U.S. forces in Afghanistan as part of a new and more aggressive strategy against the armed group. Currently, there are around 14,000 U.S. soldiers in Afghanistan, something which the Taliban has said is an obstacle to negotiating peace in the country.

<blockquote class="twitter-tweet" data-lang="en"><p lang="en" dir="ltr">Taliban officials say US agreed to discuss pullout of troops from Afghanistan <a href=""></a> <a href=""></a></p>&mdash; Al Jazeera News (@AJENews) <a href="">October 13, 2018</a></blockquote>

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The Taliban's conditions for peace in Afghanistan include the withdrawal of all foreign troops, lifting the sanctions on its leaders, and the release of imprisoned Taliban fighters in Afghanistan. The armed group also seeks to establish an official political office.

The U.S. actually requested a Taliban office be established in Doha in 2013 to facilitate peace talks but it was quickly shut down after coming under pressure over a flag hung outside the office which was also flown during the Taliban's rule of Afghanistan. Afghan President Hamid Karzai halted all peace talks over the flag issue and said his office was presenting itself as an unofficial embassy for a government which was in exile and not officially recognized by Karzai's administration.

The flag was removed and the office has been left empty with no future announcements about its possible reopening. Negotiations have been forced to move elsewhere in Doha while U.S. officials in Kabul and Zalmay Khalilzad were among those present in the Qatari capital.

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The meeting marked the second time that U.S. officials met with the Taliban leaders in Qatar. The first meeting occurred in July and US Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Alice Wells oversaw negotiations. Khalilzad was recently appointed as U.S. Special Representative for Afghanistan Reconciliation in September.

During his time in the new role, Khalilzad has met with Pakistan, Afghanistan, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates in an effort to renew talks with the Taliban directly. The group has been known as Afghanistan's largest armed militia that was crushed during the U.S. led invasion in 2001. The Taliban has repeatedly turned down opportunities to talk with the Afghan government calling them "U.S. puppets".

The U.S. announced it was ready to begin direct negotiations with the Taliban in July and to "discuss the role of international forces". Former Taliban ambassador to Pakistan Abdul Salam Zaeef confirmed the U.S. decision to discuss pulling out troops from Afghanistan.

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<blockquote class="twitter-tweet" data-lang="en"><p lang="en" dir="ltr">Senate Dem hopeful Kyrsten Sinema said &#39;I don&#39;t care&#39; if people go to fight for Taliban against US <a href=""></a></p>&mdash; Fox News (@FoxNews) <a href="">October 13, 2018</a></blockquote>

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Former Taliban ambassador Zaeef said that all that is left "now only requires a timeline for implementation". He continued, "As per my information, the US has reached an agreement with the Taliban to withdraw troops from Afghanistan but the US officials have not yet agreed on a date."

"The US is not winning in Afghanistan," Zaeef continued. "They are aware of that, which means they have to agree on the Taliban's conditions for ending the war in the country." Political analyst Faizullah Zaland said, "The US has tried all its methods, policies and strategies to limit the Afghan war, but instead the war has grown even more. The Taliban has got more land and more control in the country."

"The international community's long-term support is the only guarantee for Afghan peace, in addition to a power-sharing agreement with the Taliban," Zaland continued. "Civilian deaths have not been the main concern during these talks, but in reality, civilian casualties are the grimmest part of this war and the credit goes to all sides engaged in this conflict. Trust building measurements should be soon taken in order to build the trust of civilians for them to support the peace process."

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