Wednesday Oct 19, 2016
KABUL: The Taliban on Wednesday rejected reports of secret meetings with the Afghan government in a bid to resume long-stalled peace negotiations, insisting that their hardline policy remains unchanged.
Afghan officials on Tuesday said they held two meetings since September in Doha, where the Taliban maintain a political office, after the news was first reported by Britain´s The Guardian newspaper.
But Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid in a statement rejected any reports of talks or meetings.
Mohammad Masoom Stanekzai, Afghanistan´s intelligence chief, and National Security Advisor Mohammad Hanif Atmar had attended one of the Qatar meetings, local Tolo television said citing a presidential palace source.
"The representatives of the Taliban have not met with Stanekzai or any other officials. Our stance about the negotiations has not changed. Our policy is very clear on that," Mujahid said.
The Taliban have long insisted on the complete withdrawal of foreign forces from Afghanistan as a precondition for peace talks with the government.
The Guardian said the talks were attended by Mullah Abdull Manan Akhund, brother of Taliban founder and long-time leader Mullah Omar who died in 2013.
A senior American diplomat was also present in the Qatar meetings, the newspaper said citing a Taliban official.