Taliban in ceasefire talks with Afghan government: US official

Taliban in ceasefire talks with Afghan government: US official
Taliban commanders are in talks with the Afghan government over a possible ceasefire to end the most recent outburst of intense violence.
2 min read
The US hopes to pressure the Taliban into a peace deal [AFP]
Leading Taliban commanders have held secret talks with leading Afghan government officials about a possible ceasefire to end a recent spike in bloody attacks and violence in the war-torn country, a US official has said.

General John Nicholson told reporters that the talks include senior and mid-level Taliban officials who have been open to a possible cessation of hostilities.

"A lot of the diplomatic activity and dialogue is occurring off the stage, and it's occurring at multiple levels," General Nicholson told reporters.

"I should point out they met in secret. This is how they were able to advance the talks."

The talks are taking place despite the Taliban launching a number of assaults on government areas and a US-backed missile strikes killing over 50 Afghan leaders this week.

These are thought to be the commanders behind a recent brief Taliban takeover of Farah city with the US tracking the militants after they retreated following a Afghan counter-offensive. 

Among the dead was the number two Taliban leader in Helmand, Abdul Manan, and several district governors and local leaders in Kandahar, Kunduz, Herat, Farah, Uruzgan and Helmand provinces.

In February, Afghan President Ashraf Ghani suggested peace talks with the Taliban, saying they could be recognised as a political party if they accepted a ceasefire and recognised the country's 2004 constitution.

The Taliban have not officially responded, but deadly attacks have spiked  since then, particularly in Kabul.

The capital has become the most dangerous place in the country for civilians.

On Wednesday, militants launched an assault on the interior ministry in Kabul, killing a policeman showing again their ability at striking at the heart of the Afghan capital.

The Islamic State group claimed responsibility for the attack, who have also scaled up their attacks on civilian areas in the Afghan capital.

The US said the Taliban could be behind the attack.

The Taliban also claimed responsibility for a pre-dawn attack on a police station in the capital of Logar province, killing six police officers and injuring eight civilians.

But Nicholson likened the situation in Afghanistan to that of Colombia where the fighting continued up until the FARC guerrilla group and the government signed a peace accord in 2016.