A Taliban delegation arrived in Qatar on Saturday, where intra-Afghan peace talks are expected to begin between the group and the US-backed Afghan government. The US State Department said in a statement on Saturday that Washington’s envoy for the peace talks, Zalmay Khalilzad, departed for Doha on September 4th.
A negotiating team representing the Afghan government was expected to arrive in Doha late last week, but that trip has been delayed. A spokesperson for the government’s State Ministry for Peace Affairs said the team was waiting for Qatar to finish preparations with the Taliban to host the talks.
“The conditions for the presence of the negotiating team of Afghanistan in Qatar is ready. Some preparations from the Taliban are still underway and they are discussing ways to complete it,” the spokesperson said. Sources told Afghanistan’s Tolo News that while there are still discrepancies to be worked out, the talks are still expected to start soon.
The US-Taliban peace deal signed in February paved the way for these intra-Afghan talks. The talks were primarily delayed by issues with a prisoner release under the agreement. The Afghan government was reluctant to release certain Taliban inmates, but it looks like the prisoner release is finally complete.
A settlement between the Taliban and Kabul government could result in a complete withdrawal of US troops from the country. Although, the recent news that the Trump administration is considering appointing Will Ruger to be the new ambassador to Afghanistan could mean a shift in US policy. Ruger is a non-interventionist who believes the US should immediately withdraw from Afghanistan regardless of a peace deal between the Taliban and the Afghan government.