U.S. Peace Envoy In Kabul After 'Significant Progress' Made In Qatar

Taliban appoints Mullah Baradar as head of Qatar office amid peace talks with US

Khalilzad is now heading to Kabul to brief President Ashraf Ghani on the talks, and while there is some scepticism in the presidential palace, there is also a growing desperation for peace among ordinary Afghans.

The militants had also met Iranian representatives in Tehran.

Taliban new chief negotiator Abdul Ghani Baradar will chair the next meeting. However, both the withdrawal and the cease-fire will be "limited and conditional".

Sources added that the possibility can not be ruled out that Trump announces the plan during his State of the Union speech since now the government shut down has ended.

USA special envoy Zalmay Khalilzad has arrived in Kabul to consult Afghan government officials following six days of talks with the Afghan Taliban in Qatar aimed ending the 17-year conflict in Afghanistan.

Officials at the United States embassy in Kabul were not immediately available for comment. US special representative for Afghanistan reconciliation, Zalmay Khalilzad is leading the American side in what observers describe as unprecedented engagement between the two adversaries in the 17-year-old war.

"The US has accepted many of our demands and both sides are very much agreed on major points, but some points are still under discussion", the Taliban commander told AFP on condition of anonymity by phone from Pakistan.

A separate high ranking Taliban official suggested that the group was nervous about agreeing to a ceasefire before having established a firm settlement, as it could be hard to convince grassroots fighters to take up arms again, after having laid them down.

Taliban in a statement denied that the group had agreed with U.S. official on ceasefire and direct talks with Afghan government.

"Reports by some media outlets about agreement on a ceasefire and talks with the Kabul administration are not true", Zabihullah Mujahid, the Taliban spokesman, said in a statement shared with Al Jazeera.

"Meetings here (Doha) were more productive than they have been in the past".

FILE - Pakistan's Prime Minister Imran Khan speaks during a press conference in Putrajaya, Malaysia, Nov. 21, 2018.

"This political reconciliation must succeed".

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Khalilzad - who headed to Qatar after talks in Afghanistan and its key neighbors - said he was returning to Kabul to discuss the negotiations.

The discussions between the Afghan government and the Taliban are likely to be even more complicated and delicate than the discussions that have been held so far.

Abiding fears about how Afghan forces would withstand the Taliban threat without U.S. military support have heightened since reports emerged past year that President Donald Trump wants to bring home nearly half of the 14,000 United States troops deployed in Afghanistan.

Afghans on Sunday said their hopes of peace had been raised following last week's talks between the U.S. and the Taliban in Doha, Qatar, but warned that no deal should compromise the gains achieved over the past 17 years.

"This has the potential to start the first serious peace process to end one of the biggest wars in the world".

Ghani warned that any truce the USA eventually signs with the Taliban must pave the way for direct talks between his government and the insurgents to decide all issues, including foreign troop withdrawal.

"Yes Pakistan is present in Qatar", he said at a weekly briefing, when asked if Pakistan is participating in the talks.

While neither side released an official statement, Khalilzad tweeted later that the talks had made "significant progress" and would resume shortly, adding that he planned to travel to Afghanistan to meet government officials.

What's the Afghan government's view?

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani said last week that 45,000 members of the country's security forces had been killed since he took office in 2014. Afghan civilians have also born the brunt of the conflict and the United Nations continues to document record levels of civilian casualties in its annual reports.

They would have to include agreements on the role of women's rights and democracy in an Afghanistan where the ultra-conservative Taliban are a significant part of the political mainstream.

Aside from the humanitarian consequences of the fighting, it has cost the United States almost $1 trillion while its military has lost almost 2,500 personnel.

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