A United States envoy and the Taliban resumed negotiations Thursday on ending America's longest war after earlier signaling they were close to a deal.
A Taliban member familiar with, but not part of, the talks that resumed in Qatar said US envoy Zalmay Khalilzad also met one-on-one Wednesday with the Taliban's lead negotiator, Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar. The Taliban member spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to talk with reporters.Baradar is one of the Taliban's founders and has perhaps the strongest influence on the insurgent group's rank-and-file members. Some in Afghanistan fear that Taliban fighters who reject a deal with the US could migrate to other militant groups such as the brutal local affiliate of the Islamic State group, which claimed responsibility for a suicide bombing at a Kabul wedding over the weekend that killed at least 80 people, reports AP.
That attack again raised fears among Afghans that a US-Taliban deal will bring little peace for long-suffering civilians who have died by the tens of thousands in the past decade alone.
The US and the Taliban have held eight previous rounds of negotiations in the past year on issues including a US troop withdrawal, a cease-fire, intra-Afghan negotiations to follow and Taliban guarantees that Afghanistan will not be a launch pad for global terror attacks.
It was not immediately clear when a deal might be reached. President Donald Trump, who wants to bring home at least some of the 13,000 troops he says remain in Afghanistan before next year's election, was briefed on the negotiations Friday.
This week, Trump said it was "ridiculous" that US troops have been in the country for almost 18 years.
Afghan President Ashraf Ghani on Thursday night asserted that his government will see the final draft of a US-Taliban agreement for a "comprehensive discussion" before it is signed.Afghanistan will not be significantly affected even if 5,000 US forces leave in the next five months, an option that has been under discussion, he added in a nationally televised interview.