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Washington confirms engaging with Taliban for the first time, confirms Doha meeting

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Washington, Jan 23: The United States confirmed for the first time that its representative is meeting the Taliban and that the talks would be held in Doha, Qatar, over two days. The US special representative on Afghan reconciliation, Zalmay Khalilzad, met Taliban representatives on Tuesday in Doha in a bid to negotiate an end to the Afghanistan war, said an AFP report.

"We can confirm that Special Representative Khalilzad and an interagency team are in Doha today talking with representatives of the Taliban," an AFP report quoted US State Department spokeswoman as saying, adding that the talks were taking place over two days.

Zalmay Khalilzad

Zalmay Khalilzad

Khalilzad has sat down several times with the Taliban but it marks the first time that the United States has confirmed his meetings so directly. The meeting came even though the Taliban claimed responsibility for an attack on Tuesday against an Afghan intelligence base in central Wardak province.

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A local official said that at least 65 people were killed, in the latest high-casualty attack in Afghanistan. A Taliban spokesman announced the meeting with Khalilzad on Monday, saying that the United States accepted an agenda of "ending the occupation of Afghanistan and preventing Afghanistan from being used against other countries in the future."

Taliban fighters in Afghanistan

Taliban fighters in Afghanistan

President Donald Trump has ordered a halving of the 14,000 US troops in Afghanistan as he voices eagerness to end America's longest-ever war, launched in 2001 after the September 11 attacks. The Afghan-born Khalilzad, a key US policymaker under former president George W Bush, met the Taliban after talks in Afghanistan as well as stops in key regional players China, India and Pakistan. In Kabul, Khalilzad spoke with President Ashraf Ghani and vowed that the United States would maintain security support to Afghan forces.

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Afghanistan President Ashraf Ghani

Afghanistan President Ashraf Ghani

"We agreed military pressure is essential while we prepare to engage in negotiations for peace," he tweeted. He elaborated later: "To achieve peace, we are ready to address legitimate concerns of all Afghan sides in a process that ensures Afghan independence and sovereignty, and accounts for legitimate interests of regional states."

US President Donald Trump

US President Donald Trump

"Urgent that fighting end. But pursuing peace still means we fight as needed," he tweeted. Khalilzad is last known to have met the Taliban last month in Abu Dhabi, capital of the United Arab Emirates, which has jockeyed for influence versus Gulf rival Qatar on spearheading diplomacy with the Taliban.

OneIndia News with PTI/AFP inputs

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