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U.S., Taliban Kick Off Ninth Round Of Afghan Peace Talks In Qatar

U.S. special envoy Zalmay Khalilzad has been leading the negotiations with the militant group since last year.

U.S. and Taliban negotiators have resumed talks in Qatar to firm up a peace deal to end the nearly 18-year conflict in Afghanistan, reports say.

U.S. officials and Taliban spokesmen were quoted as saying that the ninth round of talks started on August 22 in the Qatari capital of Doha.

A Taliban member said U.S. envoy Zalmay Khalilzad, who has been leading the negotiations with the militant group since last year, also met one-on-one on August 21 with the Taliban's lead negotiator, Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, the Associated Press reported.

Khalilzad is scheduled to travel to Kabul to "inform the top Afghan leaders about the peace deal and then finalize a declaration to end the war in Afghanistan," a senior U.S. official privy to the peace negotiations told Reuters.

Previous rounds of U.S.-Taliban negotiations have focused on issues including a U.S. troop withdrawal, a cease-fire, intra-Afghan negotiations to follow, and guarantees by the militant group not to harbor terrorist groups.

The Taliban has so far rejected holding direct talks with the Afghan government.

The United States formally ended its Afghan combat mission in 2014 but about 14,000 U.S. troops remain in the country, mainly training and advising government forces battling the Taliban, an affiliate of the Islamic State group, and other militants. Some U.S. forces carry out counterterrorism operations.

U.S. President Donald Trump said on August 20 that the U.S. military role in Afghanistan had basically turned into a "ridiculous" police force.

The next day, two U.S. service members were killed in action in the country, joining more than 2,400 U.S. service personnel who have died in the United States' longest war, which started with the 2001 U.S.-led invasion to topple the Taliban.

With reporting by AP, AFP, and Reuters
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