A new round of peace talks between Taliban and U.S. negotiators is to begin in Doha this week and will include the militant group’s co-founder Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, according to Taliban and diplomatic sources in Qatar.
Reports said the talks were set to begin in the Qatari capital on February 25, and were expected to center around a cease-fire to end Afghanistan's 17-year conflict and the withdrawal of foreign troops from the country.
The U.S. negotiating team will be led by the United States Special Representative for Afghanistan Zalmay Khalilzad.
Afghan Taliban leaders had said that their new political chief, Baradar, would not attend the negotiations because he had had difficulties obtaining travel documents.
The Taliban also said there were differences among the Taliban leadership over the precise role that Baradar should have in the talks.
Baradar was released from a Pakistani jail in October.
His appointment was widely seen as marking a new push by the Taliban to achieve political and diplomatic legitimacy.
The Taliban, which now reportedly controls nearly half of Afghanistan, has held a series of direct talks with Khalilzad in recent months.
However, the group has so far refused to hold direct negotiations with the Afghan government, calling it a Western puppet.
During their previous round of talks in Doha, U.S. and Taliban negotiators reached the basic framework of a possible peace deal.
The agreement calls for the Taliban to prevent international terrorist groups from basing themselves in Afghanistan and for the United States to withdraw its forces from the country.
U.S. troops have been in Afghanistan since an October 2001 invasion that brought down the Taliban government after it refused to hand over Al-Qaeda terrorists, including Osama bin Laden, blamed for launching the September 11 attacks in the United States.
With reporting by Reuters