Sixth round of US, Taliban peace talks begin

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American and Taliban officials are meeting on Wednesday in Qatar to resume talks aimed at ending a 17-year war in Afghanistan, a Taliban official said.

“We are expecting the meeting to start in the next two hours as the US delegation has already arrived,” Zabihullah Mujahid, a spokesman for the Taliban, told Reuters.

The sixth round of talks will be led by US special envoy for peace in Afghanistan Zalmay Khalilzad in Doha. The US delegation will focus on a declaration of a ceasefire to pave the way to an end to fighting, said a western diplomat who is closely monitoring the talks.

But the Taliban’s demands will focus on firstly the withdrawal of US forces from the country.

Khalilzad, the Afghan-born American diplomat heads a team of US negotiators who have held several rounds of direct negotiations with the Taliban since October.

He has earlier acknowledged that both sides had drafted a preliminary agreement on how and when US-led foreign troops will withdraw from Afghanistan in return for insurgent assurances that hardline militant groups will not be allowed to again use Afghanistan to attack other nations.

An official working closely with Khalilzad said he is expected to encourage the insurgent group to engage in Afghan-to-Afghan talks to find a political settlement to the 17-year-old war in the country.

The United States has about 14,000 troops in Afghanistan as part of a NATO-led mission, known as Resolute Support, that is training and assisting the Afghan government’s security forces in their battle against Taliban fighters and extremist groups such as Islamic State and Al-Qaeda.

US President Donald Trump wants to reach an agreement to end his country’s longest-ever war, which dislodged the Taliban from power in Afghanistan following the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks on the United States.