The United States and the Taliban central spokesman Thursday denied plans to hold peace talks in Qatar, contradicting earlier claims by militant leaders that contacts would resume in the Gulf state within weeks. The denials came after multiple commanders said five former members of the Taliban supreme council would soon restart contacts with US officials in Qatar to try to get peace talks on track after more than 13 years of war in Afghanistan. “The United States currently has no meetings with the Taliban scheduled in Doha,” National Security Council spokeswoman Bernadette Mechan said. The Taliban’s central command also sought to distance itself from the announcement, saying it’s conditions for full blown talks were a long way from being met. “We do not have any plans for negotiations with anyone in Qatar. Regarding the negotiations, there are no new changes in the policy of Islamic Emirates of Afghanistan,” Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said in a statement.
There have been several attempts at starting dialogue in recent years between the Taliban, Kabul and the United States but with little success. The Taliban opened an office in Qatar in June 2013 as the first move towards a possible peace deal, but it shut a month later after enraging the then Afghan President Hamid Karzai by styling it as the unofficial embassy for a government in exile. The election last year of President Ashraf Ghani, who pledged to make peace talks a priority, as well as supportive signals from Pakistan, which long help significant influence with the Taliban, has boosted hopes for possible dialogue.