US re-starts talks with Afghan Taliban in Qatari capital Doha

Washington and Kabul are ramping up efforts to arrive at a political settlement with the Taliban.

The US has re-started discussion with the Taliban leadership in Qatari capital Doha on Saturday, the Agence France-Presse reported citing sources. Earlier this week, Reuters had reported that US Special Envoy Zalmay Khalilzad would travel to Qatar to kickstart halted negotiations with the Taliban. President Donald Trump had ended talks with the Taliban three months ago but the current diplomatic push is aimed at breaking the impasse and end the war in Afghanistan.

"The US rejoined talks today in Doha. The focus of discussion will be reduction of violence that leads to intra-Afghan negotiations and a ceasefire," the source told the agency. The US is locked in a war with the Afghan Taliban for the last two decades. Washington and Kabul have ramped up efforts to arrive at a political settlement with the Taliban in recent times.

Taliban useful ally against Isis

Afghan policemen keep watch during a battle with the Taliban in Nahr-e Saraj district of Helmand province, Afghanistan May 11, 2016. Reuters

Taliban has been an unlikely, but useful ally for the Western forces in their fight to liquidate the Islamic State militancy.

Special envoy Khalilzad had traveled to Kabul on Wednesday and held discussions with the Afghan officials. The latest diplomatic scramble comes after a surprise visit paid by President Donald Trump to Afghanistan on Thanksgiving Day. President Trump spent the Thanksgiving holiday with the troops stationed in Afghanistan in a surprise visit. During his interaction with American troops in the Bagram Airbase near Kabul.

The US-Taliban talks had made progress in September, and a deal was about to be signed but Trump pulled away, saying the negotiations were 'dead'. Under the deal envisaged at that time, the US was to substantially reduce the troop size in Afghanistan. The war started in 2001 following the 9/11 attacks when President George W Bush sent in hundreds of thousands of forces to root out Afghan-based al-Qaeda and other Islamist terror outfits including the Taliban.

13,000 American troops in Afghanistan

Afghanistan Taliban suicide bombers and gunmen storm police training center
Afghanistan Taliban suicide bombers and gunmen storm police training center

There are some 13,000 American troops stationed in Afghanistan, nearly 20 years after President George Bush sent in troops. The US invaded Afghanistan to remove the Taliban, which had sheltered al-Qaida leaders like Osama bin Laden, from power. More than 150,000 people have so far died in the Afghan war. As many as 2,400 US soldiers also died in the conflict.

In November, as many as 900 ISIS fighters and sleeper cell cadres including expatriate family members of the fighters, surrendered in eastern Afghanistan's Nagarhar province. The surrender came after the Afghan National Security Forces (NSF), which is supported by the western coalition forces, launched a reprisal against the Isis.

"No one believed one year ago that we would stand up and remain in Nangarhar, and thank God that today we have obliterated Daesh," President Ashraf Ghani said Tuesday during a speech in Jalalabad, using an Arabic acronym for IS, which it detests. "It's not possible that they once again equip themselves in other areas of Afghanistan and threaten other parts of the country," Nangarhar Governor Shah Mahmoud Miakhel added.