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US envoy says 'real strides' made in longest Taliban talks

13 Mar 2019 TRT World

The longest peace talks between the US and the Taliban to end America's 17-year war in Afghanistan concluded on Tuesday night in Qatar, with both sides saying progress had been made, but no final agreement could be reached.

US and Taliban negotiators wrapped up their longest round of consecutive peace talks on Tuesday with progress made but no agreement on when foreign troops might withdraw, officials said.

The 16 days of talks, in which the United States also sought assurances that Taliban insurgents will not use Afghanistan to stage attacks, are expected to resume in late March.

"The Taliban have agreed that peace will require both sides to fully address four core issues, and they are counterterrorism assurances, troop withdrawal, intra-Afghan dialogue, and a comprehensive cease-fire," State Department spokesman Robert Palladino said.

The negotiations in Doha, Qatar included the Taliban's political chief Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar and a US negotiating team led by special envoy Zalmay Khalilzad.

"Just finished a marathon round of talks with the Taliban in Doha. The conditions for peace have improved. It's clear all sides want to end the war. Despite ups and downs, we kept things on track and made real strides," Zalmay Khalilzad tweeted.

Khalilzad is now traveling back to Washington to brief US officials.

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

Call for quick withdrawal

On the issue of troop withdrawal, it had been previously speculated that US forces could leave Afghanistan within five years as part of a deal to end the nearly 18-year war.

The Taliban have called for the withdrawal to be much quicker, around six months.

The latest meetings follow marathon talks in January that saw the US and the Taliban walk away with a "draft framework" on the two issues.

Discussions also took place between the Taliban and Afghani opposition groups in Moscow in February.

During the current round of negotiations in Doha, violent attacks in Afghanistan continued.

On March 1, at least 23 Afghan security forces were killed in a Taliban attack on a joint US-Afghan base in southwestern Afghanistan.

Analysts have warned that the Taliban are likely to ramp up attacks in the coming months as they seek to maintain momentum on the battlefield and leverage at the negotiating table.

It is unclear as yet when the next round of talks will take place.

The talks which finished on Tuesday spanned 16 days, which is thought to be the longest consecutive discussions held between both sides.

Source: TRTWorld and agencies

Original Link: https://www.trtworld.com/middle-east/us-envoy-says-real-strides-made-in-longest-taliban-talks-24882

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