Collapse of peace talks with Taliban leaves US reeling
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Collapse of peace talks with Taliban leaves US reeling

A delegation of 250 Afghan politicians and civil society figures had been scheduled to meet Taliban officials in Doha at the weekend. The meeting, however, was cancelled on Thursday amid arguments over the size and status of the group. The Taliban derided the agreed list of participants as a "wedding party". Some senior opposition figures who had been included refused to attend. "I'm disappointed Qatar's intra-Afghan initiative has been delayed," US envoy Zalmay Khalilzad, said on Twitter. "I urge all sides to seize the moment and put things back on track by agreeing to a participant list that speaks for all Afghans." Afghan President Ashraf Ghani's office reacted to the cancellation of the meeting, blaming the Qatari official. It said authorities in Doha had authorized a list of participants that differed from the one proposed by Kabul, "which meant disrespect for the national will of the Afghans.” "This act is not acceptable for the people of Afghanistan," it said in a statement on Friday. The collapsed meeting was intended to prepare the ground for possible future talks by building familiarity among Taliban officials and representatives of the Afghan government. Director of the Center for Conflict and Humanitarian Studies in Qatar Sultan Barakat also said that there was no disagreement about the agenda. "Rather, there is insufficient agreement around participation and representation to enable the conference to be a success," he tweeted. The talks in Doha have so far excluded the Afghan government because the Taliban view it as illegitimate. The militant group has rejected a government bid to attend the talks as well as an offer to open an office in Kabul, urging instead international recognition of its office in the Qatari capital. US officials, however, said any final agreement would require that the Taliban meet with Afghan officials. The Taliban's five-year rule over at least three quarters of Afghanistan came to an end following the 2001 US-led invasion, but 17 years on, Washington -- having failed to end the Taliban’s militancy campaign – is seeking truce with the militants. The group has continued to carry out daily attacks on Afghan security forces despite holding several rounds of peace talks with the United States in recent months. The Taliban have claimed the US has promised them to withdraw half of its troops from Afghanistan, although the timing for that purported pullout has not been finalized. The United States said last month that it might reduce the number of its troops in Afghanistan by at least 1,000. The militant group has strengthened its grip over the past three years, with the government in Kabul controlling just 56 percent of the country, down from 72 percent in 2015, according to a US government report released last year.

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