Washington's Top Diplomat Holds Meeting with Taliban Official in Qatar

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A Taliban official says a meeting between the militant group and a senior usa diplomat to discuss a possible ceasefire ended with very positive signals.

"They involved several members of the Taliban political commission and Alice Wells, the State Department's senior South Asia diplomat, as well as other unidentified American diplomats", said The New York Times. But the department has not denied that its diplomats had taken part in such talks - a significant shift in US strategy toward the Taliban in Afghanistan. In general, even when the Taliban is known to be in talks, they tend to be very reluctant to talk about it to the press.

One of the Taliban officials described the talks as a "preliminary" discussion to set up a channel between the group and senior United States officials ahead of further meetings.

The militant said the meeting was held in the small Middle Eastern country of Qatar, where the Taliban have maintained a political office since 2013.

It is not clear when the next meeting would be held, but they were certain there would be one.

"Any negotiations over the political future of Afghanistan will be between the Taliban and Afghan government", State Department spokeswoman Stephanie Newman told CNN. Alice Wells was officially in Doha last week though. Over the years, as waves of American and North Atlantic Treaty Organisation troops have come and left in repeated cycles, the government has slowly retrenched and ceded chunks of territory to the Taliban, cleaving Afghanistan into disparate parts and ensuring a conflict with no end in sight.

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NYT noted that the Taliban have long maintained an informal "political office" in Doha for the objective of restarting the long-dormant peace process.

The retreat to the cities is a searing acknowledgment that the USA -installed government in Afghanistan remains unable to lead and protect the country's sprawling rural population.

In Kabul, the Afghanistan President's office, ARG, on Saturday welcomed any support for peace efforts.

But U.S. officials have taken pains to insist that such talks would not mean the abandonment of what has been a long-standing policy that any peace process would be "Afghan owned and Afghan led".

The Times reported earlier this month that the Trump administration urged its top diplomats to seek direct talks with the Taliban to rekindle negotiations to end the war.

His release was eventually secured in May 2014 in exchange for the five Taliban prisoners, who are living in Doha.