U.S. reports 'progress' in peace talks with Taliban
Peace talks between the U.S. and the Taliban in Qatar have yielded progress but much remains to be done, the State Department said on Tuesday.
Washington's envoy Zalmay Khalilzad resumed negotiations on February 25, part of a months-long push to end the war in Afghanistan, America's longest-running conflict which has been raging since shortly after the September 11, 2001 attacks against the U.S.
Despite a two-day break before the weekend, negotiations continue on "a daily basis right now and progress is being made," spokesman Robert Palladino told journalists.
A Taliban spokesman also said on Sunday that the talks were progressing "on a step-by-step basis."
"These discussions are ongoing and what we're focusing on are the four interconnected issues that are going to compose any future agreement," Palladino said, listing them as "terrorism," "troop withdrawal," "intra-Afghan dialogue" and "ceasefire."
Initially, Khalilzad was to return to Washington on February 28, but discussions have continued.
"I wouldn't go so far as saying open-ended, but this is the nature of diplomacy: opportunities present themselves, we change course, we correct," said Palladino.
U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said during an exchange with high school students in Iowa he hoped sufficient gains would be made for him to be able to take a trip to help advance the negotiations "in a couple weeks."
(Cover image: Afghan President Ashraf Ghani receives U.S. special envoy to Afghanistan Zalmay Khalilzad at the Presidential Palace in Kabul, Afghanistan, February 18, 2019. /VCG Photo)