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Taliban says near agreement on U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan

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The Talban also promised that the country would not become a haven for international militants.

Negotiations over how to end the 18-year war in Afghanistan have been held in Doha, capital of Qatar, in 2018. The ninth round of talks began last week.

“We hope to have good news soon for our Muslim, independence-seeking nation,” said Suhail Shaheen, a spokesman for the Taliban’s political office in Doha.

U.S. officials engaged in talks with the Taliban in Doha were not immediately available for comment.

Two sources with knowledge of the negotiations said the U.S. special representative for Afghanistan, Zalmay Khalilzad, who has been leading the talks, is scheduled to be in Kabul to brief President Ashraf Ghani about the agreement.

A senior security official in Kabul said the Taliban and U.S. officials had agreed on a timeline of about 14 to 24 months for the withdrawal of the U.S. forces.

Ghani, who is seeking a second term in September, has repeatedly offered to hold direct talks with the Taliban, but the group demanded a complete withdrawal of foreign forces as a precondition to start negotiations.

Sediq Sediqqi, a spokesman for Ghani, said the government did not want U.S. forces to stay in Afghanistan over the long term, but added that their “conditions-based” presence was needed at this stage.

“We want to end the bloodshed. We cannot accept the orders of the Taliban. They must accept our demands and we demand peace,” said Sediqqi.

Some 14,000 troops remain in Afghanistan, training and advising Afghan forces and conducting counter-insurgency operations.

NATO also has a mission in the country totaling 17,000 to provide support to the Afghan forces. (Reuters/)

FAT/AFA

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