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Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 23 February 2019

Taliban says it met US officials in Qatar hours after deadly assault on Afghan base

The attack in Maidan Wardak on Monday is one of the deadliest of the 17-year war

A general view of the collapsed building of Afghanistan's intelligence office in Wardak, Afghanistan, 21 January 2019. EPA
A general view of the collapsed building of Afghanistan's intelligence office in Wardak, Afghanistan, 21 January 2019. EPA

The Taliban said it met US officials in Qatar on Monday, in the latest round of talks between the insurgents and Washington aimed at bringing an end to the 17-year war.

The talks occurred on the same day the group claimed responsibility for a complex assault on a military base in Maidan Wardak province west of Kabul. The attack, which killed dozens of Afghan security forces, was one of the deadliest of the war.

The country's intelligence service known as the National Directorate for Security on Tuesday said its reports show 36 military personnel were killed and 58 were wounded. Provincial officials said at least 45 people were killed and as many as 70 were wounded

The United States has not officially commented on the reported meeting, which follows the last confirmed talks between the two parties in the UAE in December.

"Following American acceptance of the agenda of ending the occupation of Afghanistan and preventing Afghanistan from being used against other countries in the future, talks with American representatives took place today in Doha, the capital of Qatar," Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said in a statement.

The announcement comes a day after US special envoy Zalmay Khalilzad left Pakistan where he had met with Prime Minister Imran Khan, who arrived in Doha for an official visit on Monday.

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Mr Khalilzad has held a flurry of meetings around the region, including in Kabul last week, to garner support for the burgeoning dialogue.

Taliban representatives have met US officials several times in recent months, but last week threatened to suspend the fledgling process, lambasting Washington for changing the agenda of the talks and "unilaterally" adding new subjects.

The insurgents have long refused to hold direct talks with the Kabul government – despite US pleas – which the Taliban dismisses as a puppet of Washington.

Updated: January 22, 2019 05:08 PM

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