Talks between America and the Taliban are deadlocked and risk losing momentum, with the militants continuing to demand an immediate US troop withdrawal and refusing to negotiate with the Afghan government.
Early optimism that talks in Doha could pave the way for a peace negotiation to end decades of bloodshed has run into a wall of Taliban intransigence, Afghan and Western officials told the Daily Telegraph.
The Taliban meanwhile accuse the US of deliberately trying to split the movement during negotiation. Zalmay Khalilzad, chief US negotiator, will this month meet the insurgent envoys for a seventh round of talks as he tries to break the impasse. Success “will require other parties to show flexibility,” he said as he began a fortnight of visits to the region. However the Taliban this weekend appeared to dismiss calls for a ceasefire as part of the negotiations.
“No one should expect us to pour cold water on the heated battlefronts of Jihad or forget our forty-year sacrifices before reaching our objectives,” said the movement’s leader, Haibatullah Akhundzada.
The sixth and most recent round of talks in early May made virtually no progress according to sources briefed on the discussions. Without movement soon, the most promising political chance yet to end the Taliban’s insurgency will lose impetus, diplomats fear. “There’s been a desperate attempt to make the sixth round seem like there was some kind of progress, but there wasn’t,” said one Western official familiar with the talks.