Taliban call off talks with US citing disagreement over 'puppet involvement'
The Taliban announced on Tuesday it had called off peace talks with United States officials in Qatar that were due to take place this week due to an “agenda disagreement.”
The group said it had disagreed especially over the involvement of Afghan officials as well as a possible ceasefire and prisoner exchange.
Taliban and US officials were set to hold a new round of talks in Qatar on Wednesday, as the two sides seek to end a long and bloody insurgency in Afghanistan that has cost tens of thousands of lives.
The Taliban had refused to allow Afghan government representatives, whom it regards “puppets” to take part in the talk and called them off, Afghan officials told Reuters.
The two-days of talks was to be centred around a planned US withdrawal from Afghanistan, ending a travel ban on Taliban leaders and a prisoner exchange.
The Taliban asked for talks to be held in Qatar instead, where the group operates a political office.
Pakistani officials were supposed to participate, with Islamabad thought to wield influence over the militant group.
The US has accused Pakistan of allowing the Taliban to operate safe havens on the Afghan border prompting Washington to cut military aid to the government, although Islamabad strongly denies ties with the insurgents.
Islamabad is reportedly pushing the Taliban to hold talks with the government, with Umer Daudzai, a senior adviser to President Ghani, expected to visit Pakistan on Tuesday.
President Donald Trump wants a major scale-back of Washington's involvement in Afghanistan, where 14,000 US troops operate as part of a NATO peacekeeping operation.
The war in Afghanistan is Washington's longest overseas military intervention and has cost the country close to a trillion dollars.
Trump wants to withdraw American troops from the country and establish a peace deal with the Taliban in time for Afghanistan's presidential and parliamentary elections, due early to mid-2019.
The elections have been viewed as a litmus test for the future security of the country.
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