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Afghanistan, Taliban to hold peace talks next month

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
Afghan delegates attend a meeting to discuss a roadmap for ending the war with the Taliban at the Presidential Palace in Kabul on Feb. 23, 2016. (AP photo)

The first round of direct peace talks between the Afghan government and the Taliban militant group are expected to take place in neighboring Pakistan by March. 

The so-called Quadrilateral Coordination Group (QCG), made up of delegates from Pakistan, Afghanistan, China and the US, set the date after meeting for a fourth round of talks.

According to a joint statement by the Quadrilateral Coordination Group, Pakistan has agreed to host the talks in Islamabad in the first week of March.

The group also "expressed strong support for the upcoming direct talks between the Government of Afghanistan and authorized representatives of the Taliban and other groups."

Tuesday's four-way talks in Kabul came against a backdrop of continuing violence and increasing military pressure from the Taliban militant group.

Meanwhile, Afghan Foreign Minister Salahuddin Rabbani called for a detailed draft of direct talks between the Kabul government and the Taliban before the end of February.

Afghan Foreign Minister Salahuddin Rabbani (R) chairs the four-way peace talks at the presidential palace in Kabul on February 23, 2016. (AFP photo)

Pakistan hosted a first round of peace talks between Taliban and Afghan leaders in July 2015. The talks were halted after the militants belatedly announced the death of their longtime leader Mullah Omar.

The legitimacy of Omar's former deputy Mullah Akhtar Mansour, who assumed the leadership last July, has been rejected by some Taliban factions. The rival factions have accused Mansour of being affiliated to Pakistani spy agency, Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI).

Kabul has long accused Islamabad of continuing to covertly back the Taliban militant group.

Relations between Afghanistan and Pakistan have been tense in recent years over the ongoing militancy. Senior Afghan officials have frequently blamed elements inside the ISI for harboring the Taliban and sponsoring the militancy, while Islamabad blames the Afghan government for giving shelter to the militants on its side of the border. 

The Taliban have been operating in both Afghanistan and neighboring Pakistan.

Senior Afghan and Pakistani officials have agreed during a series of high-level meetings to stop accusing each other over Taliban-led violence that has been plaguing both countries.

The United States and its allies invaded Afghanistan in 2001 as part of Washington’s so-called war on terror. The offensive removed Taliban from power, but insecurity still remains in some provinces. The violence has also spilled over into Pakistan.

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