Afghan Taliban representatives say they will meet with U.S. officials in Qatar for two days of peace talks starting on January 9, but they refuse to meet with what they call "puppet" Afghan government officials.
The Taliban have rejected requests from regional powers to allow Afghan government officials to take part in the talks, insisting that the United States is their main adversary in Afghanistan.
"This time we want to hold talks with the American officials," a Taliban leader based in Afghanistan told Reuters on January 8.
That Taliban leader said the talks in Doha would focus on the militant group’s calls for a withdrawal of U.S. forces from Afghanistan as well as a prisoner exchange and the lifting of a ban on the movement of senior Taliban figures.
The talks would be the fourth in a series between Taliban leaders and U.S. special envoy Zalmay Khalilzad.
There was no immediate word on whether U.S. national-security adviser John Bolton would attend any of the meetings in Qatar.
Bolton was meeting with Turkish officials in Ankara on January 8 to discuss the fate of U.S.-allied Kurdish militia in Syria under a proposed withdrawal of U.S. forces from northeastern Syria.
The Taliban called off a meeting with U.S. officials in Saudi Arabia earlier this week because of Riyadh's insistence on bringing the Western-backed Afghan government to the table.
Former Afghan Interior Minister Omar Daudzai, a senior adviser to Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, was due in Pakistan on January 8 for expected talks with Pakistan’s Foreign Minister Shah Mahmud Qureshi.