In Brief

Taliban ready to talk peace but what does it want?

Reports suggest the terrorist group is willing to begin fresh negotiations with Washington

The Taliban has indicated that it is willing to engage in another round of peace talks with the US, according to reports.

The latest negotiations, which follow largely unsuccessful talks with State Department officials in Doha in July, could address a possible prisoner swap, Reuters reports.

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani has repeatedly invited the Taliban to the negotiating table, but the group says it will only talk to American representatives.

An official involved in preparations for a new meeting said it “will determine the future talks and we would see if the US is serious and sincere” about negotiating with the group.

“We would hand over a list of prisoners languishing in jails across Afghanistan,” they added. “If they set free our prisoners then we would meet again for another great cause.”

Exactly 17 years on from the beginning of the War on Terror, the insurgent group remains a major threat in Afghanistan after several efforts to achieve peace failed.

The Taliban has waged a series of deadly attacks in recent months. The US military, in turn, has increased air strikes on Taliban targets and stepped up its training of Afghan forces.

Efforts to a achieve a political settlement to end the long-running conflict in Afghanistan are stuck over the issue of maintenance of US military bases in the country, Waheed Muzhda, a former Taliban official who remains in contact with the group’s leaders, told Voice of America.

The US “wants the Taliban to accept at least two military bases, Bagram and Shorabak. The Taliban are not willing to accept it,” he said.

John Walsh, a senior expert on Afghanistan at the United States Institute of Peace, says many analysts question whether the Taliban leaders are actually open to making peace.

The group “has sent mixed signals” this summer, agreeing on one hand to a cease-fire in June, as well as restarting direct talks with the US, “but all the while continuing its years-long refusal to negotiate with what it calls the illegitimate Afghan government,” he writes for Foreign Affairs magazine.

However, Walsh concludes that his conversations with people close to Taliban political figures in recent months “suggest that there is a genuine, if temporary, opening for peace”.

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