By RFE RL
(RFE/RL) — U.S. and Taliban officials met this week for direct talks aimed at setting up peace negotiations to end 17 years of war in Afghanistan, a Taliban official said.
The meeting, which happened in Qatar on July 23, came amid growing momentum in Washington, Kabul, and elsewhere to find some way to end the violence.
The Taliban official, who asked not to named, told RFE/RL’s Radio Mashaal that Taliban representatives met with U.S. Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Alice Wells in Doha.
“The meeting was very preliminary and the aim was to prepare for future contacts. The atmosphere was very good. Useful exchanges were made,” the official said on July 28.
U.S. officials have not commented on the meeting, but The Wall Street Journal, which first reported the talks, quoted a State Department official as saying that the Afghan government was aware of the effort.
“Any negotiations over the political future of Afghanistan will be between the Taliban and Afghan government,” The Wall Street Journal quoted the official as saying.
Afghans recently enjoyed a brief respite from the persistent violence when the Kabul government and the Taliban declared a three-day cease-fire connected to the holiday ending the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.
Though fighting has resumed, the respite gave many optimism that the sides could reach some final peace deal.
The United States has bolstered its forces in Afghanistan amid the fighting. There has been an uptick in attacks from other extremist groups, too, like Islamic State militants.
Meanwhile, in the eastern Afghan city of Jalalabad on July 28, militants attacked a midwife training center. RFE/RL’s Radio Free Afghanistan quoted witnesses as saying that a suicide bombing had taken place in the area.
It was not immediately clear how casualties there were.