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“Our goal is the beginning — if not the conclusion — of a serious process on peace and reconciliation as soon as possible, but so far that hasn’t been possible,” he said.

The Obama administration reached out to the Taliban nearly a year ago, but the Islamists soon broke off negotiations. Some reports said they were angered by the U.S. refusal to release Taliban terrorists held at the U.S. military detention center at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

The U.S. toppled the Taliban in 2001 because the extremists sheltered Osama bin Laden and his al Qaeda terrorist network after the Sept. 11 attacks on the United States.

The Taliban had ruled Afghanistan for five years in a brutal regime that imposed strict Islamic law and prohibited women from getting an education. They regrouped into a terrorist army after U.S. forces overthrew them.

Several Afghan officials this week told Washington Times reporter Ashish Kumar Sen that they fear a Taliban takeover after a U.S. withdrawal.

“Civil war will erupt, and the Taliban will once again gain control of Afghanistan,” said Naeem Lalai Hamidzai, a lawmaker from Kandahar province.

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