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Renewed Taliban, US peace talks enter their fifth day

Zalmay Khalilzad at CPAC 2011 in Washington, D.C. (Gage Skidmore/Flickr)

This article was originally published by Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and is reprinted with permission.

Peace talks to end the 18-year war in Afghanistan continue as dialogue that would allow the United States to wind down its deployment entered a fifth day in the Qatari capital of Doha.

AFP reported discussions lasted into the night on August 27 as Taliban and U.S. representatives were seen “shuttling between the two sides’ negotiating teams clutching papers.”

Technical points of an agreement with the United States were being finalized, the militant group had earlier announced.

U.S. special envoy to Afghanistan Zalmay Khalilzad rejected suggestions a truce might not apply to the Taliban’s fight against the U.S.-backed Afghan government.

“We will defend Afghan forces now and after any agreement with the Talibs,” Khalilzad tweeted during the ninth round of dialogue. “All sides agree Afghanistan’s future will be determined in intra-Afghan negotiations.”

Previous rounds of U.S.-Taliban negotiations have focused on issues including a U.S. troop withdrawal, a cease-fire, intra-Afghan negotiations to follow, and guarantees by the militant group not to harbor terrorist groups.

The Taliban has so far rejected holding direct talks with the Afghan government.

The Taliban has said a news conference would be called to announce any deal reached and would include representatives from China, Russia, and the UN.

U.S. President Donald Trump said talks with the Taliban are on “no timeline” and that Washington is in “no rush” while speaking to reporters on August 26 at the Group of Seven summit in France.

The United States formally ended its Afghan combat mission in 2014 but about 14,000 U.S. troops remain in the country, mainly training and advising government forces battling the Taliban, an affiliate of the Islamic State group, and other militants. Some U.S. forces carry out counterterrorism operations.

Trump said on August 20 that the U.S. military’s role in Afghanistan had basically turned into a “ridiculous” police force.

The next day, two U.S. service members were killed in action in the country, joining more than 2,400 U.S. service personnel who have died in the United States’ longest war, which started with the 2001 U.S.-led invasion to topple the Taliban.

Suhail Shaheen, the Taliban spokesman, had said the deaths should have a “positive” impact on the talks.