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.
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.”
President Ashraf Ghani hopes to showcase unity at the four-day meeting — known as Loya Jirga — that brings together politicians, tribal elders and others.
The US special peace envoy for Afghanistan should stop calling on Taliban militants to lay down their arms and convince the United States to end the use of force instead, the Taliban said on Friday.
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