US, Taliban talk troop withdrawal at peace talks

The hardline Islamist movement considers the Afghan government a puppet regime of the US and has refused direct talks.
Taliban's

DOHA/ KABUL: American and Taliban officials looking to end a 17-year war in Afghanistan began their most detailed and high-level discussions yet on foreign troop withdrawals and counter-terrorism on Tuesday, officials close to the peace negotiations said. 

 The talks, which kicked off in Doha on Monday, are seen as the most promising yet between the warring parties after the Taliban's newly-appointed political chief Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar joined for the first time, flying in from Pakistan. 

The two sides are looking to hammer out a timeline and logistics for a potential troop withdrawal, as well as guarantees that the Taliban will not host militant groups as the US winds down its presence, sources said. 

"The Taliban knows foreign forces are committed to withdrawal, but we have the responsibility to ensure that Afghanistan does not get used as a base to launch terror attacks on foreign nations," one of the officials said. 

 The US team, led by special envoy Zalmay Khalilzad, is also pushing for the Taliban to meet with the Afghan government, which the group has so far snubbed, and to agree a ceasefire ahead of its annual spring offensive, sources said. 

The hardline Islamist movement considers the Afghan government a puppet regime of the US and has refused direct talks.
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