The US Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for the Bureau of South and Central Asian Affairs Alice Wells led a US diplomatic delegation into Qatar this week to meet with officials from the Taliban’s political commission. The focus was on how to begin peace talks for Afghanistan.
Neither Wells nor the delegation issued any statements, nor did the Taliban. The State Department, however, said that the US “is exploring all avenues to advance a peace process in close consultation with the Afghan government.”
Last week, the White House ordered diplomats to seek direct talks with the Taliban, which didn’t sit well with the Afghan government. Afghan officials have insisted that any talks must be led by them, ot the US.
This was a significant change, as earlier this year President Trump ruled out peace talks with the Taliban, saying the US wouldn’t be ready for talks for a long time. With the war going worse and the US talking about a strategy review, peace talks seem to be at least a possibility.
The Taliban office in Qatar was opened in 2013, during a previous attempt at establishing peace talks. Having an office outside of the warzone with political officials has been seen as key, giving the international community a safe site to establish talks with the Taliban’s leadership.