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‘Care and vigilance’ mark talks with US, say Taliban

KABUL: Peace talks between the Taliban and the US are progressing on a “step-by-step” basis, a spokesman from the militant group said , following a bloody attack on a joint US-Afghan base claimed by the insurgents.

Meetings between the two sides restarted over the weekend in Doha after a temporary halt late last week to allow for “internal deliberations”.

 

“The current round of talks in Doha are advancing on a step-by-step basis. As the issue at hand is immensely crucial and delicate, it’s progression is taking place with that much care and vigilance,” said Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid in a statement sent to media.

The spokesman added the negotiations continue to focus primarily on a potential US troop withdrawal and a pact to prevent Afghanistan from being used as a safe haven for terrorists. The latest meetings follow marathon talks in January that saw the US and the Taliban walk away with a “draft framework” on the two issues.

“It should be mentioned that no understanding has so far been reached about any agreement or document,” Mujahid added.

The US has not released a statement regarding the status of the talks.

A New York Times report published on Thursday hinted that US forces could leave Afghanistan within five years under a Pentagon plan offered as part of a potential deal with the Taliban to end the nearly 18-year war.

The Taliban were quick to reject the claims, saying they were unaware of any such proposals made during the months-long diplomatic push.

The US has also pushed for a ceasefire and the opening of a dialogue between the Taliban and the Kabul government — demands that have been repeatedly rejected by the insurgents. The continuation of the talks follows a major attack on a joint US-Afghan base in southwestern Afghanistan’s Helmand province on Friday, with at least 23 security forces killed in the hours-long assault on one of the largest military installations in the country.

Heavy snowfall across large swathes of Afghanistan has led to a sharp reduction in violence this winter, but warmer weather in the country’s south will likely spark an increase in bloodshed with the arrival of the spring fighting season.