Afghan Taliban postpone Pakistan talks owing to travel restrictions

For how long is the US there? Acting US defense secretary Patrick Shanahan arrives in Kabul

A delegation of the Afghan Taliban, which was scheduled to arrive in Islamabad on February 18, has postponed its visit because of travel restrictions, Taliban spokesperson confirmed Sunday.

Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry confirmed that Islamabad will host a meeting between the Afghan Taliban and the U.S. in Islamabad.

Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said a meeting with United States delegation was expected to be conducted in Islamabad on February 18.

The statement on Sunday offered no other details.

A Taliban statement issued later in the day said the talks were postponed because many members of its 14 person negotiating team were unable to go overseas since they are on "the USA and United Nations blacklist". The statement said that the Taliban team will also meet Prime Minister Imran Khan "to hold comprehensive discussions about Pak-Afghan relations and issues pertaining to Afghan refugees and Afghan businessmen".

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They said Afghanistan was not comfortable with these talks and the delay in the arrival of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman visit was another reason.

Ambassador Khalilzad further added that the objective of the US peace efforts is not to seek a way for exit but is focused on maintaining peace in Afghanistan and strengthening of bilateral relations with Afghanistan would be discussed after a peace deal is reached.

US President Donald Trump reportedly wants to cut in half the 14,000 American troops in Afghanistan, and the Taliban leaders have made a US withdrawal a key condition in peace negotiations.

Taliban representatives have popped up everywhere from luxury hotels in the United Arab Emirates to bullet trains in China to conference halls in Moscow, even as violence linked to the group has intensified in Afghanistan.

Earlier, Taliban officials and US negotiators agreed on a draft peace pact on January 26 setting out the withdrawal of foreign troops from Afghanistan within 18 months, potentially ending the longest war the USA has ever been involved in.

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