US envoy meets with Taliban officials in Qatar: report

July 26, 2018

Alice Wells, the senior bureau official for the Bureau of South and Central Asia Affairs, in a AFP file photo from 2017

The top US envoy for South Asia has met with Taliban officials for peace talks in Qatar, the Wall Street Journal reported Thursday.

Alice Wells, the senior official for the State Department’s Bureau of South and Central Asia Affairs, met with the Taliban this week to try to find a new path toward ending Afghanistan’s 17-year conflict, the Journal reported, citing people familiar with the matter.

The State Department did not directly confirm the report, but noted Wells had been in Doha this week, where she met with Qatari government officials “to discuss recent progress towards an Afghan-owned, and Afghan-led peace process.”

Officials noted they did not have any other meetings to describe “at this time” and said the US “is exploring all avenues to advance a peace process in close consultation with the Afghan government.”

“Ambassador Wells welcomed the Qatari government’s constructive partnership and dedication to Afghanistan, and expressed the deep US appreciation for efforts to reach a peaceful resolution to the conflict,” a State Department statement read.

The Journal, citing US officials, said the Doha talks fully included the Afghan government — the US has long insisted that any peace process must be Afghan-led.

As recently as last week, US officials were denying reports they were ready to speak directly to the Taliban.

The Taliban has established a political office in Qatar that serves as a de-facto embassy.