The United States resumed talks with the Taliban in Qatar Saturday, a US source said, three months after President Donald Trump abruptly halted diplomatic efforts that could end America’s longest war.
The talks came a week after President Donald Trump hinted about the talks during a surprise trip to Afghanistan to celebrate the Thanksgiving holiday with troops on 28 November.
In September, the United States and the Taliban had appeared on the verge of signing a deal that would have seen Washington begin withdrawing thousands of troops in return for security guarantees.
It was also expected to pave the way towards direct talks between the Taliban and the government in Kabul and, ultimately, a possible peace agreement after more than 18 years of war.
But that same month, Trump abruptly called the year-long effort “dead” and withdrew an invitation to the insurgents to join secret talks at his US retreat at Camp David after the killing of an American soldier.
“The US rejoined talks today in Doha. The focus of discussion will be reduction of violence that leads to intra-Afghan negotiations and a ceasefire,” said the US source briefed on efforts to end almost two decades of war in Afghanistan.
Even during the stall in talks, US negotiator Zalmay Khalilzad has in recent weeks made a whistle-stop tour of nations with a stake in Afghan peace, including Pakistan.
He recently arranged a captive swap in which the Taliban released an American and an Australian academic whom they had held hostage for three years.
A halt to Taliban attacks is the key priority for Kabul in the resumed talks between Washington and the insurgents
The Taliban have until now refused to negotiate with the Afghan government, which they consider an illegitimate regime.
In a nod to concerns raised by Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, the State Department voiced support for a ceasefire — a key priority for Kabul before it enters negotiations with the Islamist insurgents.