- The Washington Times
Sunday, January 27, 2019

The U.S. has made real progress in peace talks with the Taliban and the two sides are having “more productive” discussions than at any time before, America’s envoy to Afghanistan said over the weekend.

Following days of meetings in Qatar with Taliban leaders, U.S. peace envoy to Afghanistan Zalmay Khalilzad expressed optimism that a deal is in sight to end nearly two decades of fighting in the war-torn country.

“After six days in Doha, I’m headed to #Afghanistan for consultations. Meetings here were more productive than they have been in the past. We made significant progress on vital issues,” Mr. Khalilzad said on Twitter. “Will build on the momentum and resume talks shortly. We have a number of issues left to work out. Nothing is agreed until everything is agreed, and ‘everything’ must include an intra-Afghan dialogue and comprehensive ceasefire.”

The Taliban has mounted a comeback in Afghanistan in recent years and has regularly clashed with Afghan security forces. Taliban fighters also have launched brazen attacks on U.S. forces in Afghanistan, including an incident last October in which they targeted top U.S. commander Gen. Austin Scott Miller, who escaped the assault unharmed.

President Trump last month announced he intends to withdraw about half of the 14,000 U.S. troops in Afghanistan. That new policy may have had some impact on the Taliban’s willingness to negotiate.

Speaking on the condition of anonymity, Taliban officials told the Associated Press they’ve reached an understanding on the withdrawal of U.S. and NATO troops from their country. They also said they will no longer plot attacks on the U.S. or its allies from Afghan soil.

Officially, the Taliban says no deal is possible until the American withdrawal is complete.

“This round of negotiations revolving around the withdrawal of foreign troops from Afghanistan and other vital issues saw progress,” Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said in a statement Saturday night. “But since issues are of critical nature and need comprehensive discussions, therefore, it was decided that talks about unsolved matters will resume in similar future meetings.”

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