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US ready for direct talks with Afghan Taliban: Top cmdr.

Muslim Times(Web Desk) -The United States has expressed readiness to initiate direct talks with the Taliban in an attempt to end a 17-year-old war in Afghanistan, a significant shift in American policy in the conflict-ridden country.

General John Nicholson, the top commander of US forces in Afghanistan, made the announcement on Monday, saying the move was intended to bring the Afghan government and the militants closer and culminate in formal peace negotiations to end the long-running war.

“Our Secretary of State, Mr. (Mike) Pompeo, has said that we, the United States, are ready to talk to the Taliban and discuss the role of international forces,” Nicholson said. “We hope that they realize this and that this will help to move the peace process forward.”

Earlier, the New York Times reported that President Donald Trump’s administration had ordered diplomats to seek direct talks with the Taliban in a bid to jump-start peace negotiations.

Reaffirming Nicholson’s comments, US officials said the talks would start without any preconditions and that the future of US and NATO forces would be discussed.

Taliban’s five-year rule over at least three quarters of Afghanistan came to an end when the US and its allies invaded the Asian country on October 7, 2001 as part of Washington’s so-called war on terror. The offensive removed the Taliban regime from power, but ever since, the group has been involved in widespread militancy, killing thousands of civilians as well as Afghan and American forces and displacing tens of thousands of people across the country.

Back in February, Afghan President Ashraf Ghani called on the Taliban to join peace talks “without preconditions.”

Speaking at a peace conference in Kabul, Ghani proposed measures, including a ceasefire and prisoner swaps.

In return, Ghani said the Taliban would need to recognize the Afghan government and respect the rule of law.

The Taliban have repeatedly declared that they would not enter talks until US-led foreign troops left the country.

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