WASHINGTON: Taliban leaders are demanding closure of US bases in Afghanistan and release of hundreds of their prisoners for continuing peace talks with the United States, the US media reported on Saturday.

Zalmay Khalilzad, a former US ambassador recently named as a special adviser for Afghanistan peace talks, arrived in the United Arab Emirates this week for the next round of US-Taliban talks, NBC News reported.

The release of hundreds of Taliban-linked prisoners and the status of US bases in Afghanistan were among the key issues Taliban leaders want to negotiate in US-backed talks to end the war in Afghanistan.

“This meeting with the US authorities would either help pave the way for more meaningful talks or stop them forever,” said one of the four senior Taliban officials who spoke to NBC News.

Other US media outlets, however, reported that the Afghan government was unlikely to concede to the request without a commensurate concession from the Taliban.

“The number of US bases maintained…is also a point of contention; the US wants two, but the Taliban want zero. The Taliban’s main `reason for war, their casus belli, if you will, is the occupation,” retired Col Christopher Kolenda, a former Pentagon adviser who has negotiated with the Taliban, explained in an interview with VOA.

Published in Dawn, September 17th, 2018

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