Taliban deny agreeing to talks with US in Pakistan as Khalilzad visits Islamabad
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Taliban deny agreeing to talks with US in Pakistan as Khalilzad visits Islamabad

The reports came after US special envoy Zalmay Khalilzad arrived in Islamabad on Thursday and met with Pakistani officials, including Prime Minister Imran Khan. Local media report also claimed that Islamabd had invited a delegation of over 10 Taliban leaders to attend the talks with Khalilzad on Saturday and Sunday. “We wanted to make it clear that we will not hold any meeting with Zalmay Khalilzad in Islamabad," Taliban spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid was quoted as saying by Reuters on Saturday. A senior Taliban leader also reiterated that the group “would never hold any meeting with the Afghan government as we know that they are not capable of addressing our demands.” The US says any settlement in Afghanistan must be between the government in Kabul and the Taliban. The Taliban, however, have so far refused to deal directly with the government in Kabul, which they consider as “illegitimate.” Last month, Islamabad said it had arranged a meeting between Khalilzad and the Taliban leaders in the United Arab Emirates (UAE). The "US-Taliban reconciliation talks" produced "tangible results that are positive for all parties concerned," Emirate News Agency, also known as WAM, said at the time. The Taliban issued a statement late last year, demanding the lifting of international sanctions against its leaders, the release of prisoners and the recognition of its office in Qatar. The militants also view the presence of foreign forces, including those of the US, in Afghanistan as the main obstacle to peace. They have said they are open to negotiations on issues such as mutual recognition with the Afghan government, constitutional changes and women’s rights. Kabul, on the other hand, is strongly opposed to any recognition of the Qatar office, which was established at the request of Washington in 2013 to “facilitate peace talks.” The Taliban’s five-year rule over at least three quarters of Afghanistan came to an end in the wake of a US-led invasion in 2001, but 17 years on, the militant group continues to challenge the government and thousands of foreign troops remaining on Afghan soil.

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