- The Washington Times - Monday, June 24, 2019

Peace talks between the U.S. and Taliban are moving forward with a new round of talks focusing on a timeline for the ultimate withdrawal of U.S.-led forces out of Afghanistan, signaling new progress in the seventh-round of ongoing negotiations to end an 18-year war.

“Once the timetable for foreign force withdrawal is announced, then talks will automatically enter the next stage,” Sohail Shaheen, a spokesman for the Taliban’s political office, told the Reuters Monday.

Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Joseph Dunford said last month that Washington’s campaign against terror groups in Afghanistan will continue unabated, despite Taliban demands for a full U.S. withdrawal from the country.

The Pentagon’s top uniformed officer, whose tenure ends later this year, said America’s continued military presence in the country is not up for debate, despite during a sharp escalation of both U.S. and Russian peace talks seeking a political settlement with the Islamist Taliban forces.

The Taliban have consistently rejected negotiations with the U.S.-backed Afghan government in Kabul — including issues on the future of the roughly 17,000 U.S. troops in the country — until after the country’s September presidential elections.

Talks will also reportedly include seeking an agreement from the Taliban that militants will not plan attacks from Afghanistan, according to Reuters.

“We don’t need to wait for the completion of the withdrawal,” Mr. Shaheen added. “Both withdrawal and talks can move forward simultaneously.”

Negotiations are set to take place this weekend in Doha.

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