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Taliban meet Afghan govt. officials in Saudi Arabia ahead of elections

Representative from the Taliban have held a meeting with Afghan government officials in Saudi Arabia after earlier plans for another meeting with American officials broke down.

“Our agreement for holding the meeting was only to discuss prisoner exchange and the removal of our people from the UN black list so they can travel,” said a senior Taliban leader, quoted by AFP.

The meeting in Saudi Arabia came ahead of Afghanistan’s parliamentary elections in October, with one Taliban leader saying Kabul had requested to help conduct peaceful elections.

The Taliban have generally insisted on negotiating only with the United States but plans for another meeting with American officials broke down over US demands for a three-month ceasefire.

Talks in Saudi Arabia come after it was reported earlier this month that the Taliban were preparing to send a delegation for further talks with US officials.

The United States has reportedly agreed to participate directly and has appointed former US ambassador to Kabul Zalmay Khalilzad as the special envoy.

Afghan security forces and Afghan militia stand along a road during clashes between Taliban militants and Afghan security forces in Ghazni province  on August 12, 2018. (Photo by AFP)

The Taliban say they will not enter talks unless US troops leave the country and have pledged to make Afghanistan “another graveyard” for foreign forces.

Saudi Arabia has been pressuring the militants to stop attacking US troops. The kingdom was one of the only two countries that had officially recognized the Taliban as the legitimate government of Afghanistan between 1996 and 2001.

Taliban’s five-year rule over at least three quarters of Afghanistan came to an end following the US invasion in October 2001 but 17 years on, Washington seeks truce with the militants as it prepares for a long haul in the country.

The militants have overtaken several districts in a spate of brazen attacks in recent months, including Ghazni which was briefly overtaken by the militants last month, jolting the government in Kabul because the central city is close enough to the capital.

US troops are seen at a checkpoint in the Deh Bala district in the eastern province of Nangarhar Province on July 7, 2018. (Photo by AFP)

The militants are also fighting Daesh terrorists who have managed to establish a foothold in Afghanistan and recruit some of Taliban members.

Afghanistan’s former president Hamid Karzai has accused the US of propping up Daesh and using it as a “tool” for its own agenda in the country.

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