The United States and the Taliban opened fresh negotiations in Doha on Saturday, a Taliban spokesman said. Taliban spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid tweeted that the “seventh round of talks between US representatives and the negotiation team of the Islamic Emirate have begun in Doha”. Washington eyes a breakthrough before Afghanistan’s September presidential election.
The two sides have met repeatedly to discuss the framework for an eventual peace deal, in which the Taliban would vow to stop Afghanistan ever again being used as a terrorist safe haven in return for a pull out of foreign forces. None of the talks thus far have included the Afghan government, which the Taliban views as a puppet regime.
With the talks in Doha, this marks the seventh round of negotiations.
An hour-and-a-half after announcing the resumption of talks, Mujahid tweeted again posting a video of a group of men, some armed and with covered faces, gathered around a waterfall singing “beautiful Afghanistan”.
The video was captioned “jihadi tourism in Farah”, a southern Afghan region that has previously been touted as a possible tourist draw.
In return the Taliban would guarantee the country never again became a safe haven for violent extremist groups, as happened with Al-Qaeda before the September 11, 2001 attacks.
The negotiations have so far centred on four issues—counter-terrorism, the foreign troop presence, an intra-Afghan dialogue and a permanent ceasefire.
On Tuesday, the US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo paid an unannounced visit to Kabul and said he hoped for a peace deal with the Taliban “before September 1".
US and the Taliban can agree a deal to end the 17-year-old war and a timetable for an eventual troop withdrawal, the insurgents must still forge some kind of an accord with Afghan politicians and tribal elders before an enduring ceasefire could kick in.
Zalmay Khalilzad, the special envoy leading the American delegations went to Moscow last month, where Russia and China voiced support for the US plan for a peace deal and stressed the need for an "intra-Afghan dialogue" that would see all sides in Afghanistan at a negotiating table.