One of the Taliban’s founders arrived in Qatar for Monday’s talks with the US, Taliban sources told the BBC, raising chances of a peace deal.
Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar spent eight years in Pakistani custody until his release last year. He is now in charge of the Taliban political office in Qatar but until now he has remained in Pakistan.
Last month’s US-Taliban talks in Qatar made progress in ending 17 years of conflict in Afghanistan, the US said.
US special envoy Zalmay Khalilzad did not give details but said the unprecedented six days of talks were “more productive than they have been in the past”. The Taliban also said progress had been made in the negotiations.
However, a spokesperson said talks about “unsolved matters” would continue. The Taliban have so far refused to hold direct talks with Afghan officials, whom they dismiss as “puppets”.
They say they will only begin negotiations with the government once a firm date for the withdrawal of US troops has been agreed. After last month’s talks, Taliban sources were also quoted by Reuters as saying the two sides had finalised clauses to be included in a draft agreement.
They reportedly envisaged foreign forces withdrawing within 18 months of the deal being signed in return for assurances that al-Qaeda and the Islamic State (IS) group would not be allowed to use Afghanistan as a base to attack the US. The Taliban’s power and reach have surged since foreign combat troops left Afghanistan in 2014.