Long-Delayed Afghan-Taliban Peace Talks to Start on Saturday
A pedestrian wears a protective mask while walking along a sidewalk in Kabul, Afghanistan. (Photographer: Jim Huylebroek/Bloomberg)

Long-Delayed Afghan-Taliban Peace Talks to Start on Saturday

The Taliban, Afghan officials and the U.S. said long-delayed peace talks between the insurgent group and President Ashraf Ghani’s government will finally begin in Qatar this weekend, just after the anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001 terror attacks in America.

The Taliban is “determined to advance” the peace talks in “a better way and within the framework of Islamic values and the supreme interests of country in order to bring nationwide peace and a real Islamic system,” the group said in a statement Thursday.

U.S. President Donald Trump said Secretary of State Michael Pompeo is traveling to Qatar to take part in the talks. Pompeo earlier said in a statement that the negotiations mark “a historic opportunity for Afghanistan to bring an end to four decades of war and bloodshed. The people of Afghanistan have carried the burden of war for too long.”

Negotiations have been stalled since March, following a peace deal between the U.S. and the Taliban intended to jumpstart talks with Ghani’s government and allow the U.S. to accelerate plans to draw down troops from what has become America’s longest war.

The U.S.-Taliban deal early this year didn’t end violence in Afghanistan -- but it shifted it away from U.S. forces. That’s allowed President Donald Trump to move forward on his 2016 campaign vow to end involvement in “endless wars.”

Trump said Thursday at the White House that the U.S. aims to cut troop levels to 4,000 in a “very short period of time,” down from a peak of 100,000 at the height of the conflict.

American forces first invaded Afghanistan to oust the Taliban regime in late 2001 and bring al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden to justice for his role in the Sept. 11 terror attacks. Bin Laden was killed by U.S. forces in Pakistan in 2011.

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