Once spoiler, Pakistan starts behind-scenes aid to U.S.-Taliban talks

Once spoiler, Pakistan starts behind-scenes aid to U.S.-Taliban talks

Once spoiler, Pakistan starts behind-scenes aid to U.S.-Taliban talks

Five civilians were freed from a Taliban prison after the Afghan army waged an operation overnight in northern Kunduz province, authorities said Friday.

Former president Karzai during and his successor Ashraf Ghani had mentioned Baradar would be a force for peace and Pakistan had tried to facilitate talks between the Taliban and the USA by releasing him, he added. The US has set July 2019 target for giving final shape to the peace accord with Taliban, sources said.

The military strategy, devised by General Austin Miller, the current commander of the American-led mission in Afghanistan, is similar to past attempts to bleed the militant group, the report said.

"We are in the early stage of a protracted process", he said.

A top Russian diplomat on Thursday met with Taliban representatives and expressed Moscow's support for the USA withdrawal from Afghanistan.

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The talks come as President Donald Trump pushes to end the Afghanistan conflict, where about 14,000 United States troops are still deployed and which has seen countless thousands of civilian and military deaths.

The Taliban had issued a statement to announce Baradar's appointment and a reshuffle in their team to put senior leaders into key positions as the talks with USA officials gain momentum. Taliban officials alleged publicly this week that the United States had agreed to remove half of its troops from Afghanistan by May, a statement Khalilzad called false.

But it is tied to a more specific ambition, coming as the United States is negotiating directly with the Taliban.

"Afghans must sit across the table with each other and come to an agreement about the future of their country", Khalilzad said.

"We will not just rely on people's words", he said, adding that there would have to be "enforcement mechanisms", which he did not define. He said he wants those intra-Afghan negotiations to start immediately.

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The government has criticised the talks from the beginning, by saying that the talks hosted by Russian Federation were against the spirit of Afghan-led and owned peace process.

The difference he witnessed in Doha was the realisation that this approach would not work, he said, adding that all sides, including the Taliban, were now willing to accommodate each other.

In his annual State of the Union speech on Tuesday, Trump said the time has come "to at least try for peace".

On a question regarding the possible formation of an interim government in Afghanistan, he said that the Taliban had neither held any discussions regarding an interim government nor had they proposed such an idea. "His rivals, influential politicians and power brokers had taken part in it and agreed on certain things", one army general who served in Ghani's administration told Arab News, requesting anonymity.

Pakistan's role in the peace negotiations is a delicate one, with Islamabad seeking to avoid demonstrating the kind of broad influence over the Taliban that Washington has long accused it of having. They also contend that a long cease-fire would make it hard to get their troops back into the field if the halt to violence came to an end.

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