Taliban: Afghan peace talks with U.S. ’80-90 percent finished’

Peace talks between the United States and the Taliban militant group have made “spectacular progress” during negotiations to finish nearly two decades of fighting in Afghanistan, representatives said Wednesday.

A U.S. soldier walks a hill during a dismounted patrol near Combat Outpost Mizan in Mizan District, Zabul Province, Afghanistan.

U.S. and Taliban officials have met for days in Qatar to iron out a potential exit agreement. U.S. forces have been in the Middle Eastern nation since November 2001.

“Eighty-Ninety percent work on the peace agreement is finished,” Taliban political spokesman Suhail Shaheen told Al Jazeera. “Spectacular progress made in this round.”

Previous rounds haven’t been too successful. If the new talks produce an agreement, about 14,000 U.S. troops could leave Afghanistan.

U.S. officials have said there will be no withdrawal until the Taliban makes security guarantees, implements a cease-fire and commits to an “intra-Afghan” dialogue with the Kabul government. The Taliban has refused to talk with government leaders, saying it’s a “puppet” of the West, and says it won’t agree to anything without a timeline for a U.S. exit.

“All stages of the Qatar talks have been shared with the national unity government, and we are fully aligned with the United States,” Sibghatullah Ahmadi, a spokesman for the Afghan foreign affairs ministry, told Tolo News.

President Donald Trump told Fox News this week he’s already reduced troop levels in Afghanistan from 16,000 to 9,000. About 8,500 are part of NATO-led training and counter-terrorism missions.

Three U.S. servicemen have died in Afghanistan in the past week.

ByClyde Hughes