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Afghan Taliban Reportedly Hold Talks With U.S. Envoy In Qatar

The Associated Press reports that high-ranking members of the Taliban have held three days of talks in Qatar with the U.S. peace envoy for Afghanistan, Zalmay Khalilzad.

The report on November 18 said the former Taliban governor of Herat Province, Khairullah Khairkhwa, and former Taliban military chief Mohammed Fazl attended the talks with Khalilzad in Qatar where the Afghan militant group has a political office.

Khairkhwa and Fazl were among five senior Taliban members released from the U.S. military detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba in 2014 in exchange for a captured U.S. soldier, Bowe Bergdahl.

All five former Guantanamo Bay detainees are now based in Qatar and are thought to have enough influence with Taliban fighters in Afghanistan to broker a peace deal.

The U.S. State Department has refused to comment on reported talks between U.S. officials and the Taliban.

Khalilzad has been touring the region in recent days.

He met with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani on November 18 in Kabul where he was expected to push for Ghani to put together his own negotiating team.

Afghanistan’s Taliban have long refused U.S. demands to negotiate with the Western-backed government in Kabul.

Afghan media on November 18 quoted Khalilzad as saying that he hopes a peace deal with the Taliban would be reached before Afghanistan's next presidential election on April 20, 2019.

Based on reporting by AP, Reuters, and ToloNews