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article imageUS and Taliban plan 7th round of Afghan peace talks in Qatar

By Ken Hanly     Jun 24, 2019 in Politics
The United States and the Taliban are to start new negotiations in Qatar in another attempt to find a peaceful agreement to end the war in Afghanistan that has now been going on for 18 years.
US Special Representative for Afghanistan wants faster progress
On Sunday US Special Representative for Afghanistan Zalmay Khalizad tweeted: We'll start the next round of talks on Jun 29. Based on my recent visits to #Afghanistan and #Qatar, I believe all sides want rapid progress. #AfghanPeaceProcess
In May the US and the Taliban had finished a sixth round in Qatar with "some progress" on a draft agreement. The draft included the withdrawal of US forces plus a nationwide ceasefire and intra-Afghan talks. However, fighting has continued. Khalizad said the talks should result in an agreement faster as many innocent people were being killed in the conflict.
Taliban demand any agreement contain a timetable for foreign troop withdrawal
Ever since the Taliban government was overthrown in a US-led military operation in the fall of 2001 the Taliban have made withdrawal of all foreign troops a condition for any agreement. There are still about 17,000 foreign troops in Afghanistan including 14,000 US soldiers. They are part of a NATO mission whose mission is to train, assist and advise Afghan forces. However the US also carries out anti-terrorism operations.
The US demands
The US insists that it will only agree to a withdrawal when the Taliban commit to preventing terror groups from using Afghan territory. The US also demands a ceasefire and dialogue with other parties. The Taliban has so far refused to consider the Afghan government of president Ashraf Ghani as part of the dialogue since they regard the Afghan government as a puppet of the US and its allies.
The Taliban gaining territory
Fighting continues while the peace talks go on. The Taliban control or influence more Afghan territory now than any time since 2001 when the US-led military overthrew their government.
The upcoming peace talks
The talks will focus on a timeline for the withdrawal of US and other foreign troops from Afghanistan. However, the US insists that the Taliban promise that no militants would be allowed to launch attacks from Afghanistan. The seventh round of talks will begin next Saturday in Doha Qatar. Negotiations started back last October.
Sohail Shaheen a Taliban spokesperson said:"Once the timetable for foreign force withdrawal is announced, then talks will automatically enter the next stage. We don't need to wait for the completion of the withdrawal, both withdrawal and talks can move forward simultaneously."
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