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Next round of US-Taliban talks to be held in Islamabad on Feb 18

KABUL: The next round of the US-Taliban negotiations to end the 17 years long war in Afghanistan will be held in Islamabad, Taliban said.

Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said that Taliban negotiators will be meeting US officials on Feb 18 in Pakistan’s capital Islamabad.

The next round is taking place ahead of previously scheduled negotiations between the two sides in Qatar on Feb 25.

However, the Taliban spokesman said that the Qatar talks would still take place as per schedule on Feb 25.

Mujahid said that Taliban negotiators would also meet Pakistan’s Prime Minister Imran Khan to hold “comprehensive discussions about Pakistan-Afghanistan relations”.

Both the Taliban and the United States hailed progress after the end of the last round of negotiations in Qatar last month but Western diplomats familiar with discussions say that many tough hurdles lie ahead.

The US side is expected to push hard for a ceasefire between Taliban fighters and foreign-backed Afghan forces before any agreement on the withdrawal of US-led foreign troops.

Taliban officials say they want all foreign troops out before a ceasefire, but would still welcome non-military foreign help to re-build the country.