The Taliban says it is not ready to participate in an international peace conference on Afghanistan tentatively scheduled to begin in Turkey on April 16.
Mohammad Naeem, spokesman for the Taliban's political office in Qatar, told RFE/RL on April 12 that the militant group had yet to decide if it will attend the summit at a later date.
Naeem did not explain the militant group’s move.
The Taliban’s decision is a blow to U.S. efforts to hammer out a peace deal between the Afghan government and the Taliban aimed at ending decades of war in Afghanistan.
The Istanbul conference, initiated by the United States, was meant to give new impetus to intra-Afghan peace talks that have failed to make progress since they began in September.
The 10-day conference was expected to bring together the Afghan government, the Taliban, and a host of regional powers, including Pakistan, Iran, India, China, and Russia.
The summit was scheduled before a May 1 deadline to withdraw all foreign forces from Afghanistan, a key component of a bilateral peace deal signed with the Taliban in February 2020 by the administration of former U.S. President Donald Trump.
But Trump’s successor, President Joe Biden, has warned the withdrawal deadline will be difficult to meet, raising the prospect the entire agreement with the Taliban will unravel.
Afghanistan has seen a nationwide spike in bombings, targeted killings, and violence on the battlefield as common ground evades peace negotiators in Qatar.
The Taliban has threatened to resume hostilities against foreign troops in Afghanistan if they do not withdraw by May 1.
The group said on April 7 that its fighters targeted an airbase in southern Afghanistan where international troops are based.
“Missiles have hit targets, causing heavy human & material losses,” he added.
Neither the U.S. military nor NATO has commented on the claim.