- The Washington Times - Thursday, January 24, 2019

Talks between a top U.S. diplomat and the Taliban have carried on for consecutive days in Qatar, signaling new life in what had been a stalled Trump administration push to energize a peace process with the militant group that U.S.-led forces have been at war with for nearly two decades in Afghanistan.

U.S. Special Representative for Afghanistan Reconciliation Zalmay Khalilzad has been meeting with Taliban representatives in an attempt to establish a mechanism for a cease-fire in the 17-year war and to open a dialogue between the group and the Afghan government, Al-Jazeera and other news agencies reported.

The Taliban maintains an office in Doha, the Qatari capital, not far from where U.S. military forces maintain one of their most strategic Middle East outposts at Al Udeid Air Base, the forward headquarters of the Pentagon’s Central Command.

Al-Jazeera reported that during the current talks, discussion has focused on a plan for the withdrawal of U.S. and other international forces from Afghanistan, as well as a guarantee the country would not be used for hostile acts against the U.S. and its allies.

“The mechanism for a cease-fire and ways to enter into an intra-Afghan dialogue were the two other big topics that were supposed to be discussed on Thursday,” a Taliban leader who wished to remain anonymous told Reuters news agency.

The Trump administration has so far been mum on the latest round of talks, which had stalled during recent weeks, following reports that President Trump had ordered the Pentagon to begin planning for a possible withdrawal of 7,000 U.S. troops from Afghanistan — roughly half the total American force stationed there.

The prospect of momentum in the talks also hit a roadblock early this week, when Taliban militants carried out a brutal attack on an Afghan police training facility outside Kabul, killing more than 100 members of Afghanistan’s U.S.-backed security forces, according to local officials.

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