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USA envoy denies Taliban claim on foreign troop withdrawal

USA envoy denies Taliban claim on foreign troop withdrawal

Citing unnamed Defence Department officials, the newspaper said the U.S. attacks had reached the highest level since 2014, with the surge having started during the fall, The peace talks followed President Donald Trump's announcement that he would begin withdrawing USA troops from Afghanistan and wind down the almost 18-year war.

Khalilzad said he has pressed the Taliban to agree to a permanent cease-fire as a step toward ending the war, but they have resisted, arguing that it would remove their leverage and reduce the Afghan government's incentive to make concessions in direct negotiations.

However, he emphasized that "a lot of work" still remains to be done to reach to a peace deal with the Taliban.

Khalilzad, who is leading talks with the Taliban, was at the US Institute of Peace in Washington to discuss an ongoing push for a political settlement to the 17-year-old Afghanistan conflict.

Led by Taliban's chief negotiator Mohammad Abbas Stanikzai, ten senior officials from the group this week travelled to Moscow for talks with Afghan politicians.

Pakistan too has said that last month's talks between the United States and the Taliban were a "major diplomatic victory" for all sides.

"A peace agreement can allow withdrawal".

"We will not just rely on people's words", he said, adding that there would have to be "enforcement mechanisms", which he did not define.

Pakistan, long at odds with the United States over the war in Afghanistan, has begun to play a behind-the-scenes but central role in supporting US peace talks with the Afghan Taliban, including by facilitating travel to negotiations, USA officials and Taliban sources say.

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He said that talks between two opposing powers are meant to achieve a mutual resolution to outstanding issues and the re-establishment of peace and stability.

The Afghans, he asserted, must sit across the table with each other and come to an agreement about their future of their country.

Additionally, the Taliban have promised not to provide shelter again to foreign extremists, but experts say they can not be trusted and even now are helping to hide foreign militants.

In his annual State of the Union speech on Tuesday, Trump said the time has come "to at least try for peace".

The Taliban control almost half of Afghanistan, and are more powerful than at any time since the 2001 US-led invasion after the 9/11 terror attacks in 2001.

He said that they had eventually even opened a political office in Doha, Qatar in 2013 for this goal, but Washington had been unwilling to negotiate at the time.

In contrast, his assessment of the 18-year US-led military campaign in Afghanistan was far less positive.

Afghanistan has suffered almost constant conflict since the Soviet invasion of 1979, which was followed by civil war, the Taliban regime, and the United States invasion in late 2001.

Noting that Mullah Baradar, now based in Doha, was already facilitating the US-Taliban talks, the US envoy said that his role had also been recognised by former Afghanistan president Hamid Karzai and his successor President Ashraf Ghani.

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