There are reports that the Taliban Islamist militant group is set to hold talks with US officials on ending the 13-year conflict in Afghanistan.
According to NBC NEWS:
Members of the Afghan Taliban were due to hold peace talks with American officials in Qatar on Thursday, two senior militants told NBC News.
The delegation is led by Tayyab Agha, a close aide of Taliban supreme leader Mullah Omar. It also includes five former Taliban commanders freed from Guantanamo Bay in a controversial exchange for American soldier Bowe Bergdahl in May 2014, one of the sources told NBC News from Qatar.
“Finally we are going to sit with each other. The first round of our talks with U.S. officials is being held today on Thursday,” that senior member of the Afghan Taliban said by the telephone. “We aren’t hopeful it will resolve all the differences in one day, [but] it can provide us an opportunity to study each other’s mind and pave the way for further talks.”
Negotiations were also planned for Friday, both sources said. The other senior militant spoke from the United Arab Emirates.
NBC News reached out to State Department and were awaiting comment. Afghan government officials declined to comment.
The move angered some other Afghan Taliban chiefs who said they had not agreed to negotiations, two other commanders on the ground in Afghanistan told NBC News.
An attempt at talks in Qatar in 2013 failed after militants opened their offices in the Gulf state with much fanfare â€” including flying a Taliban flag and putting up official-looking plaques on the building.
Taliban militants have stepped up their attacks on Afghan police and soldiers in recent months, particularly since the United States and the Western military alliance ended its combat mission in the country at the end of last year.Â A report released by the United Nations on Wednesday said almost 3,700 civilians were killed and almost 7,000 others wounded in Afghanistan in 2014, making it the country’s worst year in terms of casualties since 2009.