American and Taliban delegations are meeting on Wednesday in Qatar to resume talks as the US nearly two-decade-old war in Afghanistan has reached an impasse.
“We are expecting the meeting to start in the next two hours as the U.S. 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 the Qatari capital Doha. Reuters cited a western diplomat as saying that the US delegation will focus on a declaration of a ceasefire to pave the way to an end to fighting. 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 in Qatar 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 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 Taliban’s five-year rule over at least three quarters of Afghanistan came to an end following the US invasion in 2001 but 18 years on, Washington is seeking truce with the militants.
President Donald Trump has said he intended to reduce the number of US forces in Afghanistan. The Taliban have said the US promised them to withdraw half of its troops although the timing for the pullout has not been finalized.
The US forces have remained bogged down in Afghanistan through the presidencies of George W. Bush, Barack Obama, and now Trump.