Afghanistan has sent a delegation to neighboring Pakistan to hold talks with the Taliban, a government official said Tuesday.
"I can confirm that a peace council delegation accompanied by deputy foreign minister Hikmat Karzai is in Islamabad for talks," Zafar Hashemi, a spokesman for President Ashraf Ghani, told NBC News when asked to confirm reports that the government was meeting with the militants.
The peace council is charged with brokering an deal with the group that was toppled by U.S.-backed forces in 2001 and has been fighting an insurgency since then.
A senior Afghan government official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, told NBC News that the meeting was a follow up to earlier talks in China and Norway, and mainly focused on setting the agenda and dates for the formal peace talks.
Earlier, two Taliban sources told NBC News that members of the group's Qatar-based political office had traveled to Pakistan for meetings with Pakistani and Afghan government officials.
"After holding frequent meetings with Afghan government officials in the past, this time we decided to sit with each other in Pakistan. Our people would discuss same issues that we had been talking about in all meetings on other forums," one of the Taliban commanders said on condition of anonymity.
He said that top Taliban officials — Mohammad Abbas Stanekzai, Qari Din Mohammad Hanif and Maulvi Jalil — had already arrived in Pakistan to meet Afghan officials.
Pakistani officials were not immediately available to comment.