Taliban say no pact struck with US over deadline to end war

KABUL: A three-day meeting between the Tali­ban and the US special envoy for Afghanistan to pave the way for peace talks ended with no agreement, the militant group said a day after the diplomat declared a deadline of April 2019 to end the 17-year-long war.

Afghanistan’s security situation has worsened since Nato formally ended combat operations in 2014, as the Taliban battle to re-impose Isla­mic laws following their overthrow in 2001 at the hands of US-led troops.

 

Leaders of the hardline group met US special envoy Zalmay Khalilzad at their political headquarters in Qatar last week for the second time in the past month, said spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid. “These were preliminary talks and no agreement was reached on any issue,” he said in a statement.

Taliban leaders had not accepted any deadline set by the US to wrap up talks, three Taliban officials added.

Khalilzad, an Afghan-born US diplomat authorised by US President Donald Trump’s government to lead peace negotiations with the Taliban, on Sunday said he hoped to cut a peace deal with the group by April 20. That deadline coincides with the date set for Afghan presidential elections.

A senior Taliban member in Afgha­nistan said Khalilzad’s strategy to declare a deadline showed how desperate the US was to withdraw forces. “Taliban leaders have not agreed to any deadline because we are winning on all fronts,” he added.

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