The Pentagon’s top officer met with Taliban officials in Qatar this week as part of an unprecedented effort to reinvigorate peace talks that could help end the nearly 20-year-old conflict in Afghanistan.
Army Gen. Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, met with members of the Taliban in Doha on Tuesday in hopes of persuading the group to stop fighting and move quickly toward a peace accord with the government of Afghanistan.
Progress on the talks have been slow as the Afghan government and Taliban grappled with procedural disagreements. Talks were suspended earlier this month, although negotiators have said they are expected to resume in early January under compromises on a series of protocol issues.
Gen. Milley’s meeting with the Taliban came as Taliban-instigated violence is on the rise, particularly in southern Afghanistan, military officials said, and just weeks before President-elect Joe Biden takes office.
Gen. Milley met with Taliban officials in June in a session that wasn’t previously disclosed. That meeting was the first time a chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff had met with Taliban leaders and negotiators, officials said.
After Tuesday’s meeting with the Taliban in Doha, Gen. Milley flew to Kabul, where he discussed the peace process with Afghanistan President Ashraf Ghani. Gen. Milley declined to discuss details of either set of talks.
“The most important part of the discussions I had with both the Taliban and the government of Afghanistan was the need for an immediate reduction in violence,” Gen. Milley said in an interview. “Everything else hinges on that.”
Gen. Milley disclosed both of this week’s meetings—with the Taliban in Doha and with President Ghani in Kabul—more than two days after they occurred, citing security concerns.
Afghan officials acknowledged in a statement that Gen. Milley and President Ghani met but didn’t provide additional details.