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No breakthrough but US, Taliban hail progress in Doha talks

12 Mar 2019 Al Jazeera

After 16 days of discussions, US and Taliban negotiators have wrapped up their longest round of talks yet hailing progress on some key issues - but without producing a major breakthrough.

In separate statements released on Tuesday, both Taliban and US officials said the marathon negotiations in Qatar produced developments on the withdrawal of US troops and security issues related to any pullout by Washington.

Zalmay Khalilzad, the US peace envoy for Afghanistan, said the talks had "improved" the conditions for peace in the country.

"Peace requires agreement on four issues: counter-terrorism assurances, troop withdrawal, intra-Afghan dialogue, and a comprehensive ceasefire. In January talks, we agreed in principle' on these four elements," Khalilzad said in a series of tweets, after the conclusion of the talks in Doha.

"We're now 'agreed in draft' on the first two," he added.

A spokesperson for the Taliban, meanwhile, said progress was achieved on the issue of withdrawal of all foreign forces from Afghanistan and US-sought assurances over the future of security in the country in the event of a troop withdrawal.

Al Jazeera's James Bays, reporting from Doha, said that there was "no breakthrough" but "no breakdown either".

"This is significant because of the scale of these talks - these are the most important talks that have taken place during 18 years of war," he added.

Diplomatic efforts to end the US's longest-running conflict intensified last year after the appointment of the Afghan-born Khalilzad to lead direct talks with the Taliban, which has been running an armed rebellion since it was dislodged from power in 2001.

About 14,000 US troops are based in Afghanistan as part of a Washington-led NATO mission to train, assist and advise Afghan forces. Some US forces also carry out counter-terrorism operations.

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