Kabul, Peshawar – At least eight Taliban militants have been killed in a US air strike in eastern Afghanistan, an Afghan news agency reported.
The air strike came as Reuters said that representatives of Afghanistan, China, Pakistan and the United States will meet in the Sultanate of Oman next week to discuss reviving peace talks with the Taliban.
But an Afghan official and a Pakistani foreign ministry source said it was not clear if Afghan Taliban representatives would join the talks. Taliban sources said they had not yet received an invitation and plan to skip Monday’s discussions in Muscat, casting doubt on efforts to revive long-stalled negotiations.
According to Reuters, the four-nation Quadrilateral Coordination Group (QGC), comprising Afghanistan, China, Pakistan and the United States, has been trying to ease the path to direct talks between the Afghan government and the Taliban, with little success.
Amin Waqad, a close aide to Agfhan President Ashraf Ghani and a senior member of the High Peace Council (HPC), said, “HPC and government representatives will participate, and it is an important one because the Taliban representatives will be there. We will go with a clear plan.”
A senior Pakistani foreign ministry official confirmed the talks would take place on Oct 16. Last week, Foreign Minister Khawaja Asif told Voice of America the “quadrilateral arrangement will again be in operation” in Muscat in October.
The US embassy in Islamabad did not comment for the report.
Talks and efforts to kick start negotiations have failed following the 2015 announcement of the death of the Taliban’s founder and long-time leader, Mullah Mohammed Omar, in 2013.
Two senior Afghan Taliban leaders, speaking on condition of anonymity, told Reuters the group’s leadership council met on Tuesday and decided it would not send a delegation to Muscat even if the group was invited to participate.
Meanwhile, at least eight Taliban members were killed in an air strike carried out by the United States for the first time in Badakhshan Province, years after the US military had suspended its operations in the region, Khaama Press reported.
Locals said the air strike targeted the province on Tuesday night.