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U.S.-brokered Taliban, Afghan government peace talks begin

Mullah Abdul Salam Hanafi, a representative of the Afghan Taliban movement, attends the the opening session of the peace talks between the Afghan government and the Taliban in Doha, Qatar, on Saturday. Photo by Stringer/EPA-EFE
Mullah Abdul Salam Hanafi, a representative of the Afghan Taliban movement, attends the the opening session of the peace talks between the Afghan government and the Taliban in Doha, Qatar, on Saturday. Photo by Stringer/EPA-EFE

Sept. 12 (UPI) -- Taliban and Afghan government peace talks to form a unity government and end war began Saturday.

The U.S.-brokered peace talks kicked off in Doha, Qatar, with the goal of ending years of wars that have killed and displaced millions.

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A series of wars has disrupted the country since 1978 from the Soviet-Afghan war to civil wars to the most recent U.S. invasion of Afghanistan following the Sept. 11, 2001 terror attacks. Al-Qaida used Afghanistan as a key base, sparking the U.S. invasion in the country after the attacks.

A peace deal could mark the first time in decades a government would be formed through diplomatic means instead of a coup or foreign military intervention.

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"Today is truly a momentous occasion," U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said in Doha. "Afghans have at long last chosen to sit together and chart a new course for your country. This is a moment that we must dare to hope. As we look toward the light, we recall the darkness of four decades of war and the lost lives and opportunities, but it is remarkable and a testament to the human spirit that the pain and patterns of destruction are no match for the enduring hopes for peace held by all Afghan people and their many friends."

The talks follow the transfer of six Taliban prisoners -- who had been held for killing French, Australian and U.S. citizens -- to Qatar, where they were placed under house arrest. The move completed the final requirement for peace talks to start, agreed to under a deal the United States signed with the Taliban in February.

Gradual U.S. troop withdrawal is also part of the deal based on Washington getting assurances that the unity government will not allow the country to become a base for terror attacks.

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President Donald Trump has campaigned on withdrawing the United States from "endless wars," with a goal to secure a peace deal and completely withdraw U.S. military forces from Afghanistan.

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