Afghan Taliban envoys in Pakistan for possible peace talks

The visit has stirred speculation that peace talks between Pakistan and Afghanistan Taliban may be revived.

Photo by: AFP
Photo by: AFP

An Afghan National Army (ANA) soldier keeps watch at a checkpost in Logar province, Afghanistan February 16, 2016

An Afghan Taliban delegation has arrived in Pakistan, militant sources said Saturday, raising speculation over efforts to revive peace negotiations days after reports of secret talks with Afghan officials in Qatar.

Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid confirmed the delegation from the militants' political office in Qatar had arrived in Pakistan, but ruled out any chance of peace talks.

"Our delegation has travelled from Qatar to Pakistan to discuss the problem of Afghan refugees and some schools recently closed there," he told AFP.

"The reports that they are in Pakistan for peace talks is completely untrue."

An Afghan National Army (ANA) soldier sits in front of a closed shop in the downtown of Kunduz city, Afghanistan October 3, 2016

The visit comes days after Taliban sources said they had held informal meetings with Afghan and US officials in Qatar, the first direct meetings in more than a year after a fledgling process to halt the 15-year-old conflict collapsed.

The talks in Qatar were attended by Mullah Abdull Manan Akhund, brother of Taliban founder and long-time leader Mullah Omar who died in 2013, according to Britain's The Guardian newspaper.

Mohammad Masoom Stanekzai, Afghanistan's intelligence chief, and National Security Advisor Mohammad Hanif Atmar had also attended one of the Qatar meetings, according to local media.

Afghanistan's foreign ministry said it was unaware that a Taliban delegation is in Pakistan.

"The Taliban should be banned from travelling to regional countries. But if they have done so to pursue peace, this should be explained," ministry spokesman Shekib Mustakhni said.

Afghan Special Forces prepare themselves for battle with the Taliban on the outskirts of Lashkar Gah capital of Helmand, Afghanistan October 10, 2016

The Taliban have long insisted on the complete withdrawal of foreign forces from Afghanistan as a precondition for peace talks with the government.

Pakistan has hosted several rounds of international talks over the last year to jump start peace negotiations, which yielded little progress.

The dialogue process ground to a complete halt when the US killed former Taliban leader Mullah Akhtar Mansour in a drone strike in May.

The insurgency has shown stubborn resilience under new Taliban leader Haibatullah Akhundzada, attacking northern Kunduz city for a second time and threatening the capital of the southern opium-rich province of Helmand.

TRTWorld and agencies