The latest talks between the Taliban and a U.S. peace envoy on the war in Afghanistan focused on the withdrawal of NATO troops, the release of prisoners and halting attacks on civilians by pro-government forces, a Taliban spokesman said yesterday. U.S. envoy Zalmay Khalilzad, who tweeted that talks held this week in the United Arab Emirates were "productive," was in Pakistan yesterday to meet with the chief of the country's army before heading to the Afghan capital Kabul later in the day.
The Taliban have refused to meet directly with the Afghan government, viewing it as a puppet of the U.S. The insurgent group controls nearly half of Afghanistan, and is more powerful than at any time since a 2001 U.S.-led invasion. They carry out near-daily attacks, mainly targeting security forces and government officials. In a significant development, three representatives of the Haqqani network — Hafiz Yahya, Saadullah Hamas and Dr. Faqeer, who goes only by a single name — were also present at the talks, according to a Taliban official, who asked not to be identified because of the sensitivity of the talks. This would be the first time a U.S. envoy has met with representatives of the Haqqani network, declared a terrorist group by Washington and considered one of the most lethal fighting forces in Afghanistan.