By Shadi Khan Saif
KABUL, Afghanistan (AA) – The Taliban on Saturday resumed formal peace talks with the U.S. in the Qatari capital, Doha, the group confirmed in a statement.
Suhail Shaheen, the insurgents’ Qatar office spokesman, said on social media that Mualla Baradar Akhund, the group’s deputy head, led the Taliban delegation.
“Talks with the U.S. negotiating team began from where they left off,” he said.
Shaheen added that a draft agreement was discussed and talks would continue on Sunday. Anas Haqqani, a recently freed Haqqani Network leader affiliate of the Taliban, also took part in the talks, he added.
The thorny issue of a cease-fire is set to dominate renewed talks between the U.S. and Taliban for a proposed peace deal in Afghanistan, analysts and officials told Anadolu Agency.
According to the U.S. State Department, U.S. envoy Zalmay Khalilzad will rejoin talks with the Taliban to discuss steps that could lead to intra-Afghan negotiations and a peaceful settlement of the 18-year-long war, specifically “a reduction in violence that leads to a cease-fire.”
But Afghan presidential adviser Omer Daudzai criticized Khalilzad’s approach to the talks, tweeting on Saturday: “I am puzzled with Mr. Khalilzad’s #US4AfghanPeace aim of reducing violence. Does it mean from 100 casualties per day to 90?”
Last month, U.S. President Donald Trump met his Afghan counterpart Ashraf Ghani during a surprise Thanksgiving visit to U.S. troops in Afghanistan, where he claimed his administration had resumed peace talks with the Taliban and the insurgent group is willing to observe a cease-fire, a claim that confused most observers.
The Afghan-born Khalilzad met with Afghan government representatives and other Afghan leaders in Kabul on Wednesday as part of his renewed shuttle diplomacy for peace before leaving for Qatar.