Taliban, Afghan government in peace talks

DOHA , Qatar, Oct. 18 (UPI) — The Taliban and the Afghan government are involved in secret peace talks in Qatar, sources within both sides have confirmed.

Two rounds of talks have been held, the first known negotiations since Pakistani-brokered negotiations collapsed with the death of Akhtar Mansour, the former Taliban leader, in a U.S. drone strike in May. The sources told The Guardian a senior but unidentified U.S. diplomat has been present at the high-level meetings in Qatar, where the Taliban has an office.

An unidentified Taliban leader said the first meeting, in September, “went positively and was held in a trouble-free atmosphere,” Iran’s Press TV reported Tuesday.

The talks come as Afghanistan is fighting the Taliban on several fronts. The government has sent hundreds of troops from Kabul to remove the insurgents from Lashkar Gah, the capital of Helmand province. It has also recaptured the provincial capital of Kunduz, which fell to Taliban forces Oct. 3 for the second time in a year.

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Despite fighting the Taliban since 1994, the Afghan government remains committed to a political solution to the conflict. In September it arranged a peace deal with Islamist warlord Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, who had opposed the U.S.-backed Afghan regime for more than 10 years.

President Barack Obama said in October 2015 that thousands of U.S. troops would remain in Afghanistan, contrary to a prior pledge to remove all U.S. troops by the end of his term in 2017.

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