US resumes talks with Taliban three months after Trump's 'abrupt halt'

US resumes talks with Taliban three months after Trump's 'abrupt halt'
A US source confirmed talks between the Taliban and the United States resumed in Qatar on Saturday, three months after they came to an abrupt halt.
2 min read
07 December, 2019
The Taliban and US appeared on the verge of signing a deal in September [Getty]
Washington resumed talks with the Taliban in Qatar on Saturday, a US source said, three months after President Donald Trump abruptly halted diplomatic efforts that could end America's longest war.

"The US rejoined talks today in Doha. The focus of discussion will be reduction of violence that leads to intra-Afghan negotiations and a ceasefire," said the source briefed on efforts to end almost two decades of war in Afghanistan.

In September, the United States and the Taliban had appeared on the verge of signing a deal that would have seen Washington begin withdrawing thousands of troops in return for security guarantees.

It was also expected to pave the way towards direct talks between the Taliban and the government in Kabul and, ultimately, a possible peace agreement after more than 18 years of war.

But that same month, Trump abruptly called the year-long effort "dead" and withdrew an invitation to the insurgents to join secret talks at his US retreat at Camp David after the killing of an American soldier.

During a surprise visit to a US military base in Afghanistan last week, Trump said the Taliban "wants to make a deal.”

Even during the stall in talks, Zalmay Khalilzad, a veteran US negotiator who was born in Afghanistan, has in recent weeks continued his whistle-stop tour of various nations with a stake in Afghan peace, including Pakistan.

He recently arranged a captive swap in which the Taliban released an American and an Australian academic whom they had held hostage for three years.

The Taliban have until now refused to negotiate with the Afghan government, which they consider an illegitimate regime.

About 13,000 US troops remain in Afghanistan, 18 years after the United States invaded in the wake of the September 11, 2001 attacks.

The US president has often vowed to pull out of the US's "endless wars," and he is keen to withdraw many troops from Afghanistan ahead of the November 2020 election when he faces a tough battle to win a second term.

Afghanistan remains roiled by violence, and US presidents are still only able to make fleeting, unannounced visits to Bagram - the biggest American base in the country - due to the security threat.

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