Taliban ready for second round of talks with US

ISLAMABAD, Sep 12 The Taliban are ready for a second round of talks with the US, possibly this month, which is likely to focus on prisoner exchange, confidence building measures, and ways to move from back-door meetings to formal negotiations, said Taliban officials in separate interviews in recent days.
Speaking on condition of anonymity because they are not authorized to speak to the media, Taliban officials recounted details of a meeting held in July with Alice Wells, Washington’s top envoy to the region.
One of the officials said the meeting ended with a plan to meet again in September. The US has refused to confirm or deny that meeting.
Both the US and Afghan government have insisted that talks on Afghanistan’s future would be Afghan-led, while direct talks between Washington and the Taliban — which the insurgents have long demanded — are said to be a stepping stone toward Afghan-to-Afghan talks. The Taliban have sought direct talks to settle US concerns about the Taliban’s participation in Afghanistan’s future as well as the presence of NATO and the US in the country. The official, who spoke to The Associated Press from Qatar, where the Taliban maintain a political office, said they are waiting on Washington for a second meeting date.
During the July meeting, the Taliban asked for recognition of their political office in the Qatar capital of Doha as well as an end to restrictions against its top leaders before the start of the formal negotiations, they said. The Taliban repeated their longstanding demand for the release of its prisoners in jails in Afghanistan, claiming as many as 2,000 are being held. (Agencies)