US, Taliban hold 4th day of talks in Doha; mechanism for ceasefire on agenda
Iran Press TV
Thu Jan 24, 2019 03:31PM
The United States special envoy for Afghanistan and representatives of the Taliban militant group meet for a fourth straight day in the Qatari capital, after the negotiations were extended.
Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid confirmed that "discussions are still ongoing," adding, "We will talk in detail later when we reach agreement."
The US announced resumption of its talks with the militant group earlier in the week. The talks were originally scheduled to take place over two days, but were allowed to continue in a development that some have called a "positive" sign.
"When talks take a long time, it means the discussion is in a sensitive and important stage, and the participants are getting close to a positive result," said Sayed Ehsan Taheri, the spokesman for Afghanistan's High Peace Council (AHPC), a body which oversees "peace" efforts, but does not represent the government.
The US invaded Afghanistan in 2001, which led to the fall of the Taliban. The group, however, has strengthened its grip over the past few years, with Kabul controlling over 55 percent of the country's expanse.
Meanwhile, Washington has stepped up its involvement in talks with the group since last year when it appointed the Afghan-born envoy Zalmay Khalilzad. The point man has ever since held at least four meetings with the Taliban representatives, and has been touring the region to sound out some of the countries, including Pakistan and the United Arab Emirates, on ways to put an end to the violence and militancy in the war-ravaged country.
The violence, however, has not subsided.
Major points of talks
The ongoing round of talks has reportedly focused on three major points, namely withdrawal of US troops, a pledge to prevent Afghan soil from being a base for attacks on other countries, and a potential ceasefire.
Citing a Taliban official, Reuters said the first two days featured discussions on a roadmap for the withdrawal of foreign forces and a guarantee that Afghanistan would not be used for hostile acts against the US and its allies.
"The mechanism for a ceasefire and ways to enter into an intra-Afghan dialog were the two other big topics that were supposed to be discussed on Thursday," he added.
Taliban militants have pledged to increase their attacks unless US forces fully pulled out of the country.
More than a month ago, US President Donald Trump ordered a halving of the 14,000 US troops in Afghanistan, although it was not clear if the announced drawdown had to do with the threat leveled by the Taliban.
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