Latest peace talks with Taliban ‘most productive’ so far: U.S. envoy

Vastavam web: U.S. and Taliban officials will reconvene on Tuesday to continue peace talks described as the “most productive session” by a top U.S. negotiator leading the discussions with the hardline Islamists group to end the Afghan war. The warring sides started a seventh round of peace talks last week, aiming to hammer out a schedule for the withdrawal of foreign troops in exchange for Taliban guarantees that international militant groups will not use Afghanistan as a base for launching attacks.

He said substantive progress had been made on all four parts of a peace deal: counter-terrorism assurances, troop withdrawal, participation in intra-Afghan dialogue and negotiations, and a permanent and comprehensive ceasefire. About 20,000 foreign troops, most of them American, are in Afghanistan as part of a U.S.-led NATO mission to train, assist and advise Afghan forces. Some U.S. forces carry out counter-terrorism operations.

On a trip to Kabul last month, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said the United States was close to finishing a draft agreement with the militants on counter-terrorism assurances, adding he hoped a peace pact could be reached by Sept. 1.

“There is still important work left to be done before we have an agreement,” he said, adding the ongoing peace talks will resume on July 9 after the intra-Afghan dialogue. Clarity on a final agreement on the timetable of foreign force withdrawal has been elusive so far, but in a sign of progress the Taliban agreed on the sidelines of the peace talks to hold separate discussions with a group of Afghan delegates.