Afghan leader confirms US official met Taliban in Qatar

By Shadi Khan Saif

KABUL, Afghanistan (AA) – In its first official reaction to contacts for peace between the U.S. and the Taliban, the Afghan government on Monday acknowledged the contacts, but rejected the idea of ceding any land to the Taliban.

"The Afghan government is aware of this matter, the main purpose of this [meeting] was to pave way for formal peace talks between the Taliban and the government,” said Abdullah Abdullah, the government’s CEO, adding that Kabul is aware of the meeting that took place last month in Doha, Qatar.

Chairing a Cabinet meeting aired in part by state broadcaster RTA, Abdullah rejected the notion of handing over any territory in the country to the Taliban, an idea floated by the former Mujahedeen leader, Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, as a confidence-building move.

Tolo News previously reported that Alice Wells, the U.S. principal deputy assistant secretary of state for South and Central Asia, met with Taliban representatives last month to discuss ways to lay the groundwork for peace talks. Their aim was to build on the momentum from June's three-day ceasefire for the Eid al-Fitr.

A number of Afghan security and civilian leaders have hinted that Kabul might announce another cease-fire later this month for Eid-ul-Azha or the Feast of the Sacrifice.