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Taliban, US Meeting Again Monday       12/17 06:12

   ISLAMABAD (AP) -- The Taliban say they are holding "another" meeting on 
Monday with U.S. officials, this time in the United Arab Emirates and also 
involving Saudi, Pakistani and Emirati representatives in the latest attempt to 
bring a negotiated end to Afghanistan's 17-year war.

   Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid offered no further details.

   Khalil Minawi, director of Afghanistan's state-run Bakhtar news agency, also 
confirmed the meeting. He said on Twitter that officials from the United 
States, Afghanistan, Pakistan and the UAE held meetings Sunday ahead of "the 
Pakistani-sponsored U.S.-Taliban meeting."

   While Afghan officials are not expected to attend Monday's meeting, their 
presence in the UAE is a significant step in efforts to get the two sides 
talking. So far, the Taliban have refused to hold direct talks with the Afghan 
government, calling it a puppet of America and insisting only on negotiating 
with the U.S.

   Also significant is the presence of the Saudis and Emiratis --- both have 
significant influence over the Taliban --- apparently geared toward pushing the 
insurgents toward concessions that could eventually lead to face-to-face talks 
with Kabul.

   Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Pakistan were the only three countries to 
recognize the Taliban government during its five-year rule that ended with 
their 2001 overthrow. Washington, meanwhile, has considerable sway over the 
Afghan government, which it heavily bankrolls. The U.S. has spent $1 trillion 
in Afghanistan since ousting the Taliban and the war there has become America's 

   While the U.S. State Department has neither denied nor confirmed previous 
meetings with the Taliban, Washington's special peace envoy Zalmay Khalilzad 
previously said he has held several meetings with all Afghans involved in the 
protracted conflict --- a reference that would include the Taliban, who control 
or hold say in nearly half of Afghanistan.

   A Taliban statement last month said they held three consecutive days of 
talks with Khalilzad in Qatar, a Mideast country where the insurgent group 
maintains a political office. Afterward, Khalilzad went to Kabul where he urged 
Afghan President Ashraf Ghani to cobble together a team that could hold talks 
with the Taliban with the intent of reaching an agreement on a "roadmap for the 
future of Afghanistan."

   Khalilzad said he would like to see this agreement reached before Afghan 
presidential elections, scheduled for next April.

   Since his appointment in September, Khalilzad has tried to jumpstart peace 
talks and has made several tours of the region. Earlier this month, he held 
meetings in Islamabad. Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan later said Khalilzad 
asked Pakistan to assist in getting the Taliban to the negotiating table.

   Khan said Pakistan would sponsor the UAE talks and insisted that a military 
solution is not the answer.

   President Donald Trump has long accused Islamabad of taking billions of U.S. 
dollars while doing nothing to aid peace efforts and has assailed Khan since 
his election as prime minister last summer. Washington has suspended hundreds 
of millions of dollars in military aid to Pakistan.

   Khan meanwhile has responded to Trump's rebukes by saying that his country 
was drawn into the war on terror although no Pakistanis were involved in the 
Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, and that the war has cost Pakistan $123 
billion. Khan has also described the U.S. contribution of $20 billion to 
Pakistan as minuscule.


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