A three-day meeting between the Taliban and the U.S. special envoy for Afghanistan to pave the way for peace talks ended with no agreement, the militant group said a day after the diplomat declared a deadline of April 2019 to end a 17-year-long war.
Leaders of the hardline group met U.S. special envoy Zalmay Khalilzad at their political headquarters in Qatar last week for the second time in the past month, said spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid.
"These were preliminary talks and no agreement was reached on any issue," he said in a statement Monday.
Taliban leaders had not accepted any deadline set by the U.S. to wrap up talks, three Taliban officials added. The U.S embassy in Kabul declined to comment. Khalilzad, an Afghan-born U.S. diplomat authorized by U.S. President Donald Trump's government to lead peace negotiations with the Taliban, on Sunday said he hoped to cut a peace deal with the group by April 20. That deadline coincides with the date set for presidential elections in Afghanistan. Two senior U.S. officials confirmed that the second round of peace talks ended last week and the Taliban expected Khalilzad to visit Qatar for a meeting before the end of 2018. Another senior member said Khalilzad's strategy to declare a deadline showed how desperate the U.S. was to withdraw foreign forces.
"Taliban leaders have not agreed to any deadline because we are winning on all fronts," he added. The Taliban have strengthened their grip over the past three years, with the government in Kabul controlling just 56 percent of the country, down from 72 percent in 2015, a U.S. government report showed this month.