Afghan Taliban Prepare For New Peace Talks With US

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PESHAWAR —The Taliban are prepar­ing to send a delegation for further talks with US officials about ending the conflict in Afghanistan, two officials involved with the process said on Tues­day, adding that the meeting could ad­dress a possible prisoner swap.

The two officials, who spoke on con­dition of anonymity, said Taliban lead­ers were meeting to discuss the makeup of the three-or four-person delegation and the subjects to be discussed.

They said the Taliban would like to discuss an exchange of prisoners and could hold another meeting soon if the United States showed serious­ness in talks by releasing prisoners.

“This meeting will determine the future talks and we would

see if the US is serious and sincere in negotiation,” one of the officials involved said. “We would hand over a list of prisoners languishing in jails across Afghanistan. If they set free our prisoners then we would meet again for another great cause.”

If confirmed, the meeting would follow an earlier round of talks in Doha in July, where Taliban officials met Alice Wells Principal Deputy As­sistant Secretary for South and Cen­tral Asia at the US State Department.

The Taliban delegation at the planned upcoming meeting would be led by the head of the group’s Qatar-based political office, Sher Mohammad Abbas Stanakzai, the officials said.

However they said the high command was planning to replace Stanakzai, who has been serving as interim head, with a new permanent head of the Qatar office.

“You may know Sher Mohammad Abbas Stanakzai was deputed in the Qa­tar office on acting charge basis. The top leadership is now planning to appoint someone else in his place,” one said.

Hopes that peace talks to end the 17-year conflict in Afghanistan have stut­tered in recent months, following the failure to agree a repeat of the unprec­edented Eid ceasefire in June which saw unarmed Taliban fighters mingling with security forces in Kabul and other cities.

Over the past year, the United States has stepped up air strikes against the Taliban and boosted train­ing for Afghan forces.

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