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Qatar says US, Taliban make progress in marathon talks

Qatar says US, Taliban make progress in marathon talks

He said the conditions for peace have improved and that it is clear all sides want to end the war.

Khalilzad is now expected to return to Washington to brief United States officials, the sources said.

The US had asked Pakistan to assist in its efforts to find a negotiated peace with the Taliban to end the longest war in American history.

He added: "Peace requires agreement on four issues: counter-terrorism assurances, troop withdrawal, intra-Afghan dialogue, and a comprehensive ceasefire". The special representative and team had been in the Qatari capital for the discussions since late February - they and the Taliban had reached "agreed in principle" during their last round of talks in January.

Khalilzad tweeted, "Just finished a marathon round of talks with the Taliban in #Doha".

"For now, both sides will deliberate over the achieved progress, share it with their respective leaderships and prepare for the upcoming meeting, the date of which shall be set by both negotiation teams", it said.

The two sides agreed on a four-point draft comprehensive peace deal to be implemented in accordance with time frames and conditions to be agreed upon, according to the official Qatar News Agency (QNA).

"Despite ups and downs, we kept things on track and made real strides", said Khalilzad, the USA special representative for Afghanistan reconciliation.

He further added that the two sides had made a decision to hold the sixth around next peace talks at the end of ongoing March in Doha.

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Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said the sides made progress on the issues of withdrawing foreign forces and preventing future attacks on other countries from Afghanistan.

The Afghan government, which was not involved in the Doha negotiations, said it was pleased with the progress made.

The talks were held in a closed-off banquet hall at the five-star Ritz-Carlton seaside hotel on the southern end of Doha.

"We appreciate how hard it is to end 18 years of war".

Taliban fighters attend a surrender ceremony in Nangarhar province, Afghanistan, on January 22, 2012.

Despite years of U.S. and North Atlantic Treaty Organisation support to the Afghan government, its security forces have failed to secure the country, almost half of which is under the control of the Taliban.

The talks in Doha focused on the withdrawal of U.S. troops and assurances that insurgents would not use Afghanistan's territory to stage future terrorist attacks - one of the initial aims of American policy in the wake of the 9/11 attacks back in 2001.

"That sequence is a large concession to Taliban that may keep process moving but at cost of transferring leverage from Taliban", tweeted Laurel Miller, former US acting special representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan. Tens of thousands of members of the Afghan security forces and an unknown number of insurgents have also been killed.