Afghan President Ashraf Ghani said yesterday the Taliban should "enter serious talks" with his government, after the insurgents and Washington both touted progress during unprecedented negotiations in Qatar last week. "I call on the Taliban to... show their Afghan will, and accept Afghans' demand for peace, and enter serious talks with the Afghan government," Ghani said in a nationally televised address from the presidential palace in Kabul.
Both the Taliban and the U.S. cited "progress" over the weekend as hopes rise that the length of the negotiations could mean a deal may be in sight which paves the way for Afghan talks. As well as the sticking point of the ceasefire, the Taliban did not discuss the need for talks with the Afghan government to reach a political settlement that the U.S. believes is a core part of a deal. The Taliban have repeatedly refused to talk to the Western-backed Afghan government, which they see as a puppet of the United States.
The U.S. team, headed by special peace envoy Zalmay Khalizad, is in Kabul this week meeting Afghan President Ashraf Ghani. After being toppled by a U.S.-led invasion in 2001, the Taliban control about half of Afghanistan and are staging daily attacks amid the diplomacy. Further talks are due to start in Qatar on Feb. 25.