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U.S. Afghan Envoy Says 'Faster Progress' Needed In Taliban Talks

U.S. special representative for Afghan peace and reconciliation Zalmay Khalilzad at a forum with the Afghan director of TOLO news, Lotfullah Najafizada, at Tolo TV in Kabul on April 28.

The U.S. special envoy to Afghanistan said on May 10 that "faster progress" is needed in peace talks with the Taliban as another round of discussions between the two sides came to an end.

Zalmay Khalilzad said "steady but slow progress" was made in the round of discussions held in Doha, the capital of Qatar, that ended on May 9, the "pace" of which Khalilzad said is not "sufficient when so much conflict rages and innocent people die."

Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid, in a May 9 statement, called the current round of talks "positive," with both sides discussing topics including the full withdrawal of foreign forces from Afghanistan and ensuring that Afghanistan is not used as a base to harm other countries.

Mujahid spoke of "progress" on some points but said others had "yet to be finalized."

The talks were led by Khalilzad and Sher Mohammad Abbas Stanekzai, the head of the Taliban's political office in Doha.

The discussions are aimed at finding a possible political solution to the almost 18-year-old Afghan conflict -- the longest war in U.S. history.

Washington has been in contact with the Taliban since July.

The Taliban has so far refused to directly talk with the Afghan government, which the militants call a "puppet regime."

A call by an Afghan grand council, or Loya Jirga, for an immediate and permanent cease-fire beginning with the holy month of Ramadan, which started on May 5, was rejected by the militant group.

On May 8, Afghan officials said five police officers, one security guard, and three civilians were killed in a Taliban attack on Counterpart International, a nonprofit organization that works together with the United States Agency for International Development (USAID).

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo strongly condemned the attack.

Pompeo said Counterpart International runs programs encouraging peaceful dialogue and opportunities for women, among other initiatives.

“This violent attack is a senseless assault on the noble values that the organizations like Counterpart support, such as service to others, education, and inclusion," Pompeo said in a statement issued on May 9.

With reporting by dpa, AP, and AFP
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