The Taliban have announced that they have cancelled the scheduled peace talks with U.S. officials to be held in Qatar this week over disagreements on the agenda. This development has been reported by Reuters.
The talks were scheduled to start today in Doha, Qatar. The disagreement centered around the involvement of Afghan government officials as well as a possible ceasefire and prisoner exchange.
The Taliban have rejected the participation of the Afghan government in the ceasefire talks saying the government is a puppet of western powers. The Taliban considers the U.S. its main adversary in Afghanistan. "The US officials insisted that the Taliban should meet the Afghan authorities in Qatar and both sides were in disagreement over declaring a ceasefire in 2019," according to Reuters. "Both sides have agreed to not meet in Qatar."
The talks had to be re-located as the Taliban called off the earlier meeting with US officials in Saudi Arabia because Riyadh insisted on bringing Afghan government officials to the negotiating table.
The talks would have been the fourth round between the Taliban and U.S. special envoy Zalmay Khalilzad. The two sides were to speak about a US troop withdrawal from Afghanistan, prisoner exchange and the lifting of a ban on movement of Taliban leaders. The third round of talks saw the participation of Afghanistan’s neighbours in the talks as Saudi Arabia, Pakistan and the UAE took part in the last round of talks in December.
Apart from this cancellation in talks, Reuters has also reported that a draft agreement drawn up by the influential US think tank RAND Corporation outlining the clauses for a potential peace deal has been sent to the Afghan government. This deal would see the U.S. and its NATO allies remove their troops from Afghanistan over a period of 18 months but continue supporting civilian assistance.