WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Washington and the Afghan Taliban resumed talks in Qatar on Thursday with the aim of reaching an agreement allowing US troops to withdraw from Afghanistan after 18 years of conflict, a US source said.
The meeting is being held against the backdrop of the deaths of two US soldiers on Wednesday in Afghanistan, dozens of explosions that rocked the city of Jalalabad last Monday, as well as a suicide attack on a wedding ceremony last Saturday in the capital Kabul, which killed 80 people and claimed responsibility by ISIS.
The agreement is expected to include the withdrawal of more than 13,000 US troops from Afghanistan with a clear timetable, the Taliban's main demand, as well as a ceasefire between the group and the Americans or at least a "reduction in violence."
The deal, if reached, would be historic, 18 years after the US invasion of Afghanistan and the ouster of the Taliban from power in the wake of the September 11, 2001 attacks.
Washington hopes to conclude a peace deal with the Taliban by early next month, before the Afghan elections scheduled for the same month, and the US presidential election in 2020.
Taliban chief negotiator Abbas Stanek Zee said the negotiation process was "going well."
US President Donald Trump said again on Tuesday: "We have been there for 18 years. This is ridiculous."
"We are negotiating with the government and negotiating with the Taliban. There are good discussions and we will see what happens," he said.
After this new round of negotiations, US envoy Zalmay Khalilzad is scheduled to visit the Afghan capital to "encourage" preparations for inter-Afghan negotiations, according to the US State Department, while some thorny issues, such as power-sharing with the Taliban, and the future The current administration, the roles of regional powers such as India or Pakistan.