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Afghan government, Taliban leaders meet for peace negotiations

Afghan security forces sit at a checkpoint near the border with Pakistan. Leaders of the Afghan government and the Taliban met for peace negotiations Saturday after the militant group claimed it captured a key border city this week. File photo by M. Sadiq/EPA-EFE
Afghan security forces sit at a checkpoint near the border with Pakistan. Leaders of the Afghan government and the Taliban met for peace negotiations Saturday after the militant group claimed it captured a key border city this week. File photo by M. Sadiq/EPA-EFE

July 17 (UPI) -- High-ranking officials of the Afghan government and Taliban forces launched peace negotiations on Saturday amid ongoing military clashes in the country.

Abdullah Abdullah, the chairman of Afghanistan's High Council for National Reconciliation, and Taliban deputy leader Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar led the talks hosted in the Qatari city of Doha, continuing negotiations that began in September 2020.

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Abdullah said the Afghan people have been the primary victims of the conflict and that Afghan politicians and government leaders agree there is no military solution as both sides should rather focus on reaching a political settlement.

"We believe that the regional and international environment has been provided ... Afghans want the continuation of the world's support to the peace process," he said.

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Baradar stressed that "a strong, centralized, and independent Islamic system" is necessary for Afghanistan.

"We should have a system in the light of our religion, national pride and interests," he said. "Outsiders' thoughts have not benefited us in the past; they will not benefit us in the future."

Saturday's meeting came after the Taliban on Thursday proposed a three-month cease-fire if Afghan officials release 7,000 captured fighters and remove the militant group's leaders from a United Nations blacklist.

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In recent weeks Taliban forces have claimed to have taken over several key locations in Afghanistan.

On Wednesday, Pakistani security officials said they closed their side of a border crossing with Afghanistan after Taliban forces captured a town on the Afghan side.

Last week, Afghan government officials said they repelled an attack by the Taliban on the country's second-largest city, Kandahar. Earlier this month border officials said that 1,037 Afghan servicemen fled the Badakhshan province and crossed the border into neighboring Tajikistan after clashes with the Taliban.

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The recent clashes come as President Joe Biden has set a deadline of Sept. 11 to withdraw U.S. troops from Afghanistan and said the U.S. mission in Afghanistan should be completed by Aug. 31.

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