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Ghani's Office Says Trump Insists On Cease-Fire As 'Precondition' For Afghan Peace Talks

Afghanistan - (R-L) US President Donald Trump with (L-R) Afghan president Mohammad Ashraf Ghani and his delegation during a meeting in New York, 21 September 2017

KABUL -- President Ashraf Ghani’s office says the Afghan leader has discussed the government's seven-point peace plan in a telephone conversation with U.S. President Donald Trump, who insisted on a cease-fire as a "precondition" to begin negotiations with the Taliban.

Trump also said that "for any process to succeed, the Afghan government's inclusion in the talks and their ownership and leadership of the process from the outset is imperative, which must begin immediately," spokesman Sediq Sediqqi tweeted on November 22.

Ghani's team last month released a seven-point proposal aimed at building on the U.S.-Taliban talks and bringing an end to Afghanistan's 18-year-old war.

The United States and the Taliban had been talking in a bid to put an end to the Afghan conflict for almost a year before Trump called off the talks in September.

Observers have questioned whether certain proposals in Ghani's plan -- including a call for a monthlong Taliban cease-fire before talks resume -- are feasible.

Also, the Taliban has so far refused to talk to the Afghan government, which is says is a U.S. puppet.

But the November 19 release of two Western hostages from Taliban custody in exchange for three ranking Taliban prisoners has raised hopes for peace talks between the militant group and the government in Kabul.

Sediqqi wrote in a separate tweet that Trump thanked the Afghan president for "his efforts and support in ensuring the release" of the two professors of the American University of Kabul from the Taliban’s captivity.

Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan's office said on November 21 that Trump "thanked the prime minister for Pakistan's efforts in facilitating this positive outcome."

Khan called the release of the two Western hostages a "positive development" and "reaffirmed Pakistan's commitment to the advancement of the Afghan peace and reconciliation process," a statement said.

On November 21, Trump traveled to an air base in Delaware to pay respect to two U.S. soldiers killed in a helicopter crash in Afghanistan earlier this week, and offer condolences to their families.l

The U.S. president was accompanied by his wife, Melania, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Mark Milley, and national-security adviser Robert O'Brien.

There are roughly 13,000 U.S. troops in Afghanistan, as well as thousands of European forces participating in the NATO-led Resolute Support mission.

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