US and Taliban negotiators approached an agreement Tuesday, the insurgent group said, when Secretary of State Mike Pompeo expressed the hope of an agreement under which Washington withdraws large numbers of troops from Afghanistan.
Optimism came during the fifth day of talks in Qatar between the two sides as negotiators discussed individual words and phrases in a draft agreement.
"We have made progress in this round, so we are finalizing the remaining points," Taliban spokesman Suhail Shaheen told reporters outside the Doha luxury member club where talks are taking place.
He said an agreement could be expected "as soon as the remaining points are finalized."
The United States invaded Afghanistan in 2001 after the September 11 attacks, knocking the Taliban out of power.
Washington wants to withdraw thousands of US troops and put an end to 18 years of war, but only on the condition that the group renounce its connections with Al Qaeda and stop the attacks.
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Pompeo, addressing American war veterans, said that although he could not predict how the talks would end, President Donald Trump "is committed to making sure we do it right."
"His clear guide for me and my military colleagues is this: we want to take our people home as quickly and as much as possible, and we want to make sure that terror never happens in the United States again." Pompeo said.
"So I think we can achieve and we will achieve both, and we will honor his work and his sacrifices in this fight," he told the National Convention of the American Legion in Indianapolis.
The violence persists
The Doha negotiations, the ninth round between the United States and the Taliban, take place in a context of persistent violence in Afghanistan.
The Taliban said Saturday they killed seven members of the US military in an attack on a convoy near the Bagram airfield north of Kabul.
US officials dismissed the claims as "lies."
On Wednesday, two US soldiers were killed by small arms fire in Faryab province in northern Afghanistan, the Pentagon said.
Shaheen had said the deaths should have a "positive" impact on the talks in Doha.
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The United States chief negotiator, Zalmay Khalilzad, tweeted Monday that Washington "will defend the Afghan forces now and after any agreement" with the group.
He was responding to suggestions that an agreement might not apply to the insurgents' fight against the US-backed Afghan government.
He also wrote that all parties to the negotiations had agreed that "the future of Afghanistan will be determined in intra-Afghan negotiations."
Shaheen said "all internal affairs" will be discussed in the talks between Afghans after the Doha agreement is completed and made public.
Washington hopes to reach such an agreement by September 1, before the Afghan polls that will be held the same month and the US presidential elections. UU. Next year
The four pillars of any agreement between the Taliban and the United States are expected to be the withdrawal of foreign troops, a ceasefire, guarantees against terrorism and intra-Afghan dialogue.
Any agreement will be announced to the media, as well as to representatives from neighboring countries such as China, Russia and the United Nations, the Taliban said.