23:38 GMT24 January 2020
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    MOSCOW (Sputnik) - The US and the Taliban movement are nearing an agreement envisaging the withdrawal of US troops from Afghanistan in exchange for the insurgents' pledge to prevent groups like al-Qaeda* terrorist organization from infiltrating the country ever again, The New York Times newspaper reported, citing sources within the Taliban group.

    The new round of US-Taliban talks started on Monday in the Qatari capital, where Taliban has a political office.

    READ MORE: Taliban Used US-Made Humvee in Ambush That Killed Dozens

    "The discussions have been focused on two issues — the withdrawal of the troops and that the soil of Afghanistan will not be used against anyone," a senior Taliban official told the news outlet late on Thursday, refraining, however, from confirming that any relevant agreement had been reached so far.

    While another senior source confirmed that the details had not yet been finalized, former Taliban official Sayed Akbar Agha and Western diplomatic sources told the newspaper that the negotiators could make an announcement regarding the agreement on Thursday.

    However, later in the day, the only thing that the Taliban announced was the appointment of a new chief negotiator.

    Agreements reached at negotiations between the United States and the Taliban in Qatar do not equate to a formal deal, but increase the chances of direct talks between the Afghan government and the Taliban, Ihsan Taheri, the spokesman of the Afghan High Peace Council (HPC), told Sputnik on Friday.

    "The final peace deal will be signed in the inter-Afghan dialogue between the government of Afghanistan and the Taliban, so we cannot call this a deal but it is a process of speeding up the process of reaching the day that everyone is waiting for — that is the direct talks between the Afghan government and the Taliban," Taheri said in reference to the proposals discussed by the Taliban and the United States in Qatar during talks.

    Taheri added that the withdrawal of international forces from Afghanistan would be on the agenda of direct talks between the Taliban and the country's government.

    "The withdrawal of international and US forces from Afghanistan is, of course, on the agenda in the direct talks between the Afghan government and the Taliban," Taheri said.

    Talks between the United States and the Taliban are held in Qatar, where the Taliban has an office. The previous stop made by US Special Representative for Afghanistan Reconciliation Zalmay Khalilzad to advance the Afghan peace process was in Pakistan.

    The Taliban movement has been one of the major forces opposing Kabul in the latter's long-standing confrontation with various rebel and terror groups. The Taliban seized power in the country in 1996, and the United States deployed its troops to Afghanistan in 2001 to fight al-Qaeda in retaliation for the 9/11 attacks. The US troops eventually overthrew the insurgents, saying that the country had become a safe haven for al-Qaeda while insurgents were in power.

    While most of the US troops left Afghanistan by the end of 2014, Washington continues to support the Afghan armed forces in combating terrorism.

    *Al-Qaeda is a terrorist group banned in Russia


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