Mon, 19 Aug 2019

The latest round of talks between the Taliban and the United States has ended without any signs of reaching a peace deal for Afghanistan, as both sides said they would consult with their leaderships on the next steps.

The eighth round of talks, which began in Qatar's capital on August 3 and focused on technical details, ended in the early hours of Monday.

Neither side provided details of the outcome of the discussions in Doha, but US envoy Zalmay Khalilzad called them "productive" and Taliban spokesperson Zabihullah Mujahid described them as "long and useful".

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The two sides have been discussing an agreement under which US forces would withdraw from Afghanistan and the Taliban would guarantee the country would not revert to being a launch pad for global attacks.

But the US is also pushing for a Taliban agreement on two other, more far-reaching elements: power-sharing talks with Afghanistan's US-backed government and a ceasefire.

An agreement would allow US President Donald Trump to achieve his aim of ending a war launched in the days after the September 11, 2001 attacks on the US.

The war has become a stalemate, with neither side able to defeat the other and casualties rising among civilians as well as combatants amid surging violence.

The Afghan government has not been involved in the talks. The Taliban refuse to recognise or negotiate with it.

The Taliban is seen at being at its strongest since the US-led invasion toppled their five-year government in 2001. The US and NATO formally concluded their combat mission in 2014, but about 20 000 US and allied troops remain in the country.

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