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Fresh round of US-Taliban peace talks to start in Doha today

DOHA: Taliban political chief Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar will lead the latest round of peace talks between the United States and the Taliban, which are set to resume in Doha from today.

Qatar said that Baradar has reached Doha to lead the fresh round of talks with the US. Earlier reports said that he will miss the talks.

The main agenda of the talk will be a ceasefire to end America’s longest war and the withdrawal of foreign troops from Afghanistan.

Talks will begin today, Feb. 25.

US officials have been keen to negotiate with Baradar, hoping the Taliban’s co-founder and the military veteran would add momentum and have the clout to discuss tough issues surrounding the end of the 17-year war.

Pakistan released Baradar in October last year.

The talks will be led on the US side by United States Special Representative for Afghanistan Zalmay Khalilzad, the foreign ministry statement said.

US officials said that last month’s talks in Doha had seen the most significant progress to date but that major sticking points remained over the timing of a ceasefire.

The Taliban have snubbed recent Afghan government attempts to participate, as well as an offer by Afghan President Ashraf Ghani to open a Taliban office in Afghanistan, with the group pushing instead for international recognition of its Doha office.

Some 14,000 US troops are based in Afghanistan as part of a US-led NATO mission to train, assist and advise Afghan forces. Some US forces also carry out counter-terrorism operations.