The Trump administration is preparing to withdraw thousands of US troops from Afghanistan under a tentative agreement with the Taliban that includes a ceasefire, the Washington Post quoted US officials as saying.

The agreement could cut the number of US troops in Afghanistan from about 14,000 to between 8,000 and 9,000, the officials told the newspaper.

The plan was crystallized after months of negotiations between US envoy to Afghanistan Zalmay Khalilzad and the Taliban in Doha.

Officials said a final deal could be reached before the Afghan presidential elections in September, although they warned of major challenges still in place.

The United States and the Taliban are expected to start soon the eighth round of talks in Doha, seeking an agreement that would end a US military intervention in Afghanistan, which is 18 years old.

"I can say that they cut about 80 or 90 percent of the road, but the road is still a long way in the last 10 or 20 percent," an official told the newspaper. While Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid confirmed that "there is hope for a solution during this round."

Direct dialogue
In a related context, Zalmay Khalilzad, the US special representative in Afghanistan, asked Pakistan to persuade the Taliban to engage in direct dialogue with Kabul.

Khalilzad, who arrived in Pakistan on Thursday as part of an official visit, exchanged views with Prime Minister Imran Khan and Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi on the latest developments on the ongoing talks between Washington and the Taliban, the Pakistani foreign ministry said in a statement.

Since the US-led invasion in 2001, Afghanistan has been embroiled in a conflict between the Taliban and government and international forces led by the United States. Thousands of civilians have been killed.

The Taliban refuse direct negotiations with the government on the grounds that they are illegal and insist that US troops leave the country as a prerequisite for peace with the government.