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Afghan officials leave for Doha to resume talks with Taliban

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)
A file photo of Taliban negotiators in Doha, Qatar (file photo)

Afghan government officials and Taliban representatives are set to resume a second round of talks in the Qatari capital, Doha.

The team of Afghan government negotiators left Kabul for Doha on Tuesday to resume talks with the Taliban over an initial agreement the two sides reached in December last year.

Head of the Afghan reconciliation council Abdullah Abdullah said the leadership committee of the council met with Afghan negotiators on Monday evening to provide “the team [with] clear guidelines for the next round of talks.”

He said that the negotiating team had the full support of the nation and the mandate to discuss the peace agenda with the Taliban.

“We are committed to achieving a lasting peace, and we ask the Taliban to do their part. We are looking for a successful second round,” Abdullah added.

US special envoy Zalmay Khalilzad will also meet the negotiators of the two sides, according to the US State Department.

Afghan security forces stand at the site of an attack in Kabul, Afghanistan, on December 20, 2020. (Photo by AFP)

The Afghan government and the Taliban held the first round of the intra-Afghan negotiations in Doha on September 12 last year. The two sides took a break after striking the preliminary deal.

It marked the first time the two warring sides reached a written agreement since the US invasion of Afghanistan in 2001.

The new round of talks come as the US has accused the Taliban of carrying out a spate of attacks that targeted government officials, civil society leaders, and journalists in Afghanistan.

The Taliban denies the allegation, saying that US forces had conducted airstrikes against its members in non-military zones. A Taliban spokesman, Zabihullah Mujahid, said the group would retaliate if the US forces continued airstrikes in the country.

A spokesman for the US forces in Afghanistan, Sonny Leggett, defended the attacks against the Taliban, saying they were defensive.

The US reached a deal of its own with the Taliban in February last year on the withdrawal of the remaining 12,000 US troops from Afghanistan in exchange for the Taliban’s halting of their attacks on international forces.

The deal was intended to result in the reduction of bloodshed, but violence continues to take a heavy toll in the country.

A report said last year that Taliban bombings and other assaults had increased by 70 percent after the US-Taliban agreement.

Meanwhile, Afghan President Ashraf Ghani and some other senior officials have called for the talks to be moved home, with the president underlining the need for the Afghan people to see how the talks proceed.

But the Taliban, which has in the past refused to hold talks in Afghanistan, has not responded to Ghani’s call.

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