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Taliban kills Afghan soldiers in attacks on army posts

14 October 2018

On Saturday, the Taliban confirmed their delegation met U.S. envoy Zalmay Khalilzad in Qatar to discuss "ways of finding a peaceful end to the occupation of Afghanistan".

The meeting was the first of its kind since Khalilzad took office as the US' special envoy for Afghanistan reconciliation last month and marks the first time a high-ranking USA official has held talks with the militant group after they were ousted from power in late 2001.

The U.S. State Department has said only that Khalilzad has had "a number of meetings with a wide range of stakeholders as part of his trip to explore how best to reach a negotiated settlement" to the war in Afghanistan.

But a wave of attacks by the Taliban and ISIS extremist group in recent months has poured cold water on the nascent optimism for peace.

A spokesman for the U.S. Embassy in Kabul would not comment on the Taliban statement.

The Journal, citing a person familiar with the gathering, said Zalmay Khalilzad, the US Special Representative for Afghanistan Reconciliation, met with Taliban officials in Doha - the second time in four months that American officials have held face-to-face talks with Taliban representatives.

Both sides "agreed to continue such meetings".

But there are concerns over how they will manage as the Taliban and the Islamic State group step up attacks across the country.

Sher Mohammad Abbas Stanakzai, who is the head of Taliban's Qatar office, led the discussions, he said. He traveled to Pakistan, the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia and Qatar before returning to Kabul.

He said Khalilzad's meeting, set for last month, was delayed because United States officials had insisted that President Ghani's government be represented in the talks and the issue of occupation removed from the agenda - conditions that were opposed by the Taliban.

But continued fighting has raised questions about the viability of the U.S. strategy to end the war, which for the past year has focused on forcing the militants to the negotiating table, largely via more air strikes.

They have ramped up attacks in strategic provinces and have also directed Afghans to boycott parliamentary elections scheduled for October 20.

Last week the Taliban demanded a complete withdrawal of foreign forces as the only solution to end the war that began with the 2001 ousting of the former Taliban government by US -led forces after it refused to hand over Osama bin Laden following the 9/11 attacks on the United States.

Afghan officials say at least five civilians were killed when in a bomb exploded during a wedding ceremony in eastern Logar province.

Taliban kills Afghan soldiers in attacks on army posts