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Taliban, US Negotiators Meet in Qatar

Taliban, US Negotiators Meet in Qatar
Taliban, US Negotiators Meet in Qatar

Afghan Taliban negotiators are meeting with U.S. officials in Qatar for a series of discussions aimed at building trust between the two sides ahead of the upcoming peace talks.

Maulavi Qalamuddin, who once led the group's religious police, said Sunday the delegation includes several former officials, as well as a former secretary to the Taliban's leader Mullah Omar.

Qalamuddin said the talks include the possible release of Taliban prisoners from the U.S. military detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.  He added the delegation traveled to Qatar from Pakistan, a possible sign that Islamabad might support the peace process.

Pakistani officials have declined to comment on the country's role in contacts between the Taliban and the United States.  But a Foreign Ministry spokesman ((Abdul Basit)) has reiterated that Islamabad will continue to make contributions toward achieving peace and stability in Afghanistan.

Also on Sunday, Pakistan said Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar will travel to Afghanistan on Wednesday to discuss the war on terror and political reconciliation efforts aimed at ending the 10-year armed conflict.

Khar is expected to meet with her Pakistani counterpart, Zalmai Rassoul, and make a "courtesy call" on President Hamid Karzai.

The efforts aimed at promoting peace and reconciliation suffered major setbacks recently.  

Last September, Afghanistan's top peace negotiator and former President, Burhanuddin Rabbani, was killed in his home in Kabul by a suicide bomber posing as a Taliban envoy.  Afghan officials said the attack was planned in Pakistan and carried out by a Pakistani citizen.  Islamabad has denied any involvement in the killing.  

In November, the killing of 24 Pakistani soldiers in a cross-border U.S. airstrike near the Afghan border dealt another blow to reconciliation efforts in Afghanistan.  

Following the raid, Pakistan suspended cooperation with U.S. and NATO forces, which led to shutting down NATO supply lines through its territory to Afghanistan and ordering the United States to vacate an air base in southwestern Baluchistan province.  

Islamabad said the restoration of the ties is contingent on approval by Pakistan's parliament, which is due to meet early next month.

Some information for this report was provided by AP, AFP and Reuters.

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