Afghan, Taliban Teams Agree on Terms for Conducting Peace Talks

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The government of Afghanistan and the rebel Taliban movement have agreed on procedural rules for peace talks to end the country’s 19 years of conflict.

The terms, which consist of 21 articles, have been “approved” by both parties to break weeks of stalemate, Mohammad Naeem, a spokesman for the Taliban in Doha, Qatar, where they have a political office, said onTwitter. The Afghan government hasn’t commented.

A key disagreement has been whether the U.S.-Taliban deal should serve as the basis for the Afghan-Taliban talks, a position rejected by the government. The peace deal the U.S. signed with the militants on Feb. 29 requires the Taliban to cut ties with all terrorist groups, including Al-Qaeda, in exchange for troop withdrawal from Afghanistan.

The U.S. has started withdrawing forces from the country and will reduce its troops to 2,500 from 4,500 by Jan. 15, with more scheduled leave by May. The Afghan government expressed concern over what it considers a premature withdrawal that could leave the country incivil war.

The United Nations has noted adramatic surge in violence by the Taliban since the talks began on Sept. 12, ranging from attacks on Afghan army bases to attempts to capture key cities including Kandahar. Other militants have launched assaults on Kabul University and other educational centers, killing dozens of students. On Sept 21, unknown assailants fired a deadly barrage of rockets that struck residential areas in the capital.

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