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Taliban's Qatar Office Denies Peace Talks Are On Agenda

File photo of Taliban spokesman Muhammad Naeem (L) in Doha, Qatar.
File photo of Taliban spokesman Muhammad Naeem (L) in Doha, Qatar.

The Qatar-based political office of Afghanistan’s Taliban has rejected media reports that a Taliban delegation sent to Pakistan is exploring the possibility of joining peace talks with the Afghan government.

Muhammad Naeem, a spokesman for the Taliban’s Qatar political office, said on April 27 that the issue of peace negotiations was not on the agenda of two Taliban delegates sent from Qatar to Pakistan.

Naeem identified the delegates from the Qatar office as Maulvi Jan Muhammad and Maulvi Shahabuddin Dilawar.

He said the issues the two were discussing included the release of Mullah Beradar Akhund and other Taliban prisoners, the problems faced by Afghan refugees in Pakistan, and recent problems along the border between Pakistan and Afghanistan.

Naeem's statement conflicts with remarks made by a senior Afghan Taliban source based in Pakistan who told AFP that a three-member Taliban negotiating team was in Karachi on April 25 and would “soon begin initial contacts with Pakistani and Afghan officials."

That Afghan Taliban source said the main purpose of the visit was “to explore ways and means to bring peace in Afghanistan.”

In March, the Taliban ruled out participating in what it called "futile" talks that are sponsored by Pakistan, Afghanistan, the United States, and China.

Afghanistan's President Ashraf Ghani this week publicly called on Pakistan to battle the Taliban rather than try to bring them into peace talks.

Speaking to Afghanistan's parliament on April 25, a week after a Taliban assault in Kabul killed 64 people and wounded another 340, Ghani said Kabul no longer expects Islamabad to bring Afghanistan’s Taliban to peace talks in Pakistan.

He said Pakistan should launch a military operation “against those whose leaders are based in Pakistan and are known by Pakistan to be there.”

Afghanistan has long accused Pakistan of giving safe have to the Afghan Taliban leadership, and Islamabad recently admitted that was true after years of denial.

But Islamabad claims it has only "limited influence" over the militants.

Talks between Kabul and the Afghan Taliban were aborted in July 2015 after one meeting after the belated revelation that Taliban founder Mullah Omar had died two years earlier.

The disclosure sparked months of infighting within the militant group.

With reporting by Reuters, Afghan Islamic Press, and AFP

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