ISLAMABAD: Afghan Taliban are considering to nominate a senior leader to lead formal talks with the United States, Daily Times has learnt. The insurgent group has expressed interest in holding another meeting in Qatar after the first meeting which was led by Sher Abbasi Stanekzai, who heads the Qatar office, on July 23. “The leadership is appointing a new head of the Qatar office to win the trust of the military commanders as both sides will head to formal negotiations and later enter a decisive phase,” a Taliban leader, who requested not to be identified, told Daily Times on Wednesday in a WhatsApp call from an undisclosed location. A member of the Haqqani Network will also be included in the Qatar team, he said. There is also a possibility the Taliban leaders, who were freed from Guantanamo Bay, in an exchange for American soldier Sgt Bergdahl in March 2015, could get roles in the negotiations. The five freed Taliban men have been living in Qatar since their release. Stanekzai was appointed the Qatar office head after the resignation of Syed Tayyeb Agha in August 2015, after Taliban disclosed the news of Mullah Omar’s death. A Taliban source said the US has floated the idea of a peace deal like the agreement in Bonn, Germany, in December 2001 that had paved the way for the establishment of an interim and inclusive set up following the collapse of the Taliban regime. “The US wants the Taliban to not disturb the parliamentary elections in October and to wait for at least a year until President Ashraf Ghani completes his five-year term in 2019,” he said. Presidential elections are scheduled to be held in April 2019. He said Taliban suggested a guarantor for the implementation of the decisions to be taken in the formal dialogue. “The guarantor could be the UN, OIC, anyone from major powers but we have not yet specified anyone, and we could make a public statement when both sides begin official talks,” the Taliban leader said. He said Taliban had raised the issue of the reopening of the Qatar office before the start of official talks and also the removal of Taliban leaders’ names from the UN sanctions list in the July meeting as both sides had ‘focused on confidence building measures’. “The issue of the withdrawal of foreign troops is very important for us and we want a timeframe for the withdrawal. This will pave the way for solution to the problem,” he said. Both the US and the Taliban have not officially shared details of the July 23 preliminary meeting between the U.S. Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asian Affairs Alice Wells and the Taliban political envoys. A Taliban official, however, said that the Taliban political negotiators and American officials had agreed to keep talking to finalise the agenda for the formal negotiations and to ‘narrow down differences’ over their demands as the Taliban pressed the American side to ‘share a timeframe for the withdrawal of the foreign troops’. A new venue for the talks is also part of the discussions and Uzbekistan, Saudi Arabia, and Turkey are under consideration. The Taliban, however, insist that the venue should remain unchanged. The Qattar office was closed just days after then President Hamid Karzai raised objections at the name of Islamic Emirate and raising of the white flag, both associated with the Taliban regime during 1996-2001. Taliban have been demanding reopening and recognition of the office where there political representatives stay, despite its closure. When asked about Zalmai Khalilzad’s appointment as the US special envoy for Afghanistan, the Taliban official said the leadership has not ‘shown any reservations’ about Khalilzad, who would be now take the lead role in the Taliban-US interaction. Published in Daily Times, September 13th 2018.