Taliban talks resume amid hopes of deal: US source

Doha (AFP) –


The US and the Taliban met in Doha on Thursday, an American source close to the talks said, for potentially decisive dialogue to allow Washington to drawdown militarily in Afghanistan.

The source said the talks started around 1300 GMT -- the ninth time the two foes have met face-to-face.

The disclosure came in a context of ongoing bloodshed in Afghanistan after NATO said two US military personnel were killed Wednesday, blasts rocked Jalalabad Monday, and the death toll from a weekend wedding bombing reached 80.

Washington's top commander in Afghanistan General Scott Miller was at the talks venue, according to an AFP correspondent.

The US, which invaded Afghanistan and toppled the Taliban in 2001, wants to withdraw thousands of troops but only in return for the insurgent group renouncing Al-Qaeda and curbing attacks.

Washington is hoping to strike an agreement with the Taliban by September 1 -- ahead of Afghan polls due the same month, and US presidential polls due in 2020.

Taliban lead negotiator Abbas Stanikzai told AFP Thursday that overall talks had been "going well".

The talks are expected to focus on establishing a timeline for the US withdrawal of its more than 13,000 troops in Afghanistan.

"We've been there for 18 years, it's ridiculous," US President Donald Trump told reporters Tuesday.

"We are negotiating with the government and we are negotiating with the Taliban," he said.

"We have good talks going and we will see what happens."

But the thorny issues of power-sharing with the Taliban, the role of regional powers including Pakistan and India, and the fate of Afghanistan's incumbent administration remain unresolved.

US envoy Zalmay Khalilzad sought to bolster optimism for a peace agreement last week when he said in a tweet that he hoped this is the final year that the country is at war.