In a reversal of a longstanding policy, American diplomats held face-to-face talks with Taliban representatives in Qatar a week ago without Afghan government officials present, two senior Taliban officials said on Saturday.
A State Department spokeswoman did not respond to questions about whether the talks took place. But the department did not deny that its diplomats had taken part in such talks — a significant shift in American strategy toward the Taliban in Afghanistan.
“Any negotiations over the political future of Afghanistan will be between the Taliban and Afghan government,” said the spokeswoman, Stephanie R. Newman.
The Afghan president’s office said on Saturday that it welcomed any support for peace efforts.
The talks took place in Doha, where the Taliban have long maintained an informal “political office” for the purpose of restarting the long-dormant peace process.
They involved several members of the Taliban political commission and Alice Wells, the State Department’s senior South Asia diplomat, as well as other unidentified American diplomats, according to the two Taliban officials.
The Taliban officials spoke on condition of anonymity because of the diplomatic sensitivities around the talks, which were initially reported by The Wall Street Journal.
SOURCE: Taimoor Shah and Rod Nordland
The New York TImes