US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo speaks at a news conference at Lazienki Palace in Warsaw, Poland. File photo/ Reuters
A fresh round of talks between the US and the Taliban is to begin in Qatar, just days after US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Washington is hoping for an Afghan peace agreement before Sept.1.
Suhail Shaheen, spokesman for the Taliban’s political office in Doha, tells The Associated Press talks with US peace envoy Zalmay Khalilzad will begin early on Saturday morning. The focus of the talks will be on the withdrawal of US troops and Taliban guarantees to prevent Afghanistan from again hosting militants who can stage global attacks.
The latest round of talks comes amid heightened expectations that followed Pompeo’s optimistic time frame for a pact to end Afghanistan’s nearly 18-year war and America’s longest-running military engagement.
Under a deal signed by the US and the Taliban last month, the insurgents agreed to commit to starting talks with the Afghan government and discuss a possible ceasefire.
The late February pact between the United States and the Taliban, under which US-led international forces will withdraw in exchange for Taliban security guarantees, is the best chance yet of ending the 18-year war.
Afghanistan’s government and the Taliban will meet for peace talks in Doha on Saturday in a bid to end nearly two decades of war, though a quick breakthrough seems unlikely.
Ghani said the message of the five-day gathering was clear: “Afghans want peace” and offered a ceasefire, though he stressed it would not be unilateral. In the statement on Friday, the Taliban rejected a ceasefire, saying attacks will continue during Ramadan but said “fighters are very careful of civilians during any operation.”
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