By Bryan Lynn
28 January, 2019

The United States official working to bring peace to Afghanistan says "significant progress" was made during his latest talks with the Taliban.

U.S. special representative Zalmay Khalilzad reported the progress after holding six days of talks with Taliban representatives in Qatar. Before going to Qatar, Khalilzad met with Afghan government officials.

"Meetings here were more productive than they have been in the past," Khalilzad wrote on Twitter as he prepared to fly back to Afghanistan. He added: "We will build on the momentum and resume talks shortly. We have a number of issues left to work out."

The goal of the talks is to reach a peace deal agreed to by all sides. The U.S.-led Afghan war was launched shortly after the September 11, 2001 attacks on the United States. The military action was aimed at ousting the Taliban from power. U.S. officials accused the group's leaders of providing support to al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden and his followers.

Khalilzad met in Kabul Sunday with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani. In a statement, the president's office said the U.S. diplomat had shared details about his talks with the Taliban. It said Khalilzad held discussions with the Taliban on a cease-fire, but that he reported no specific progress on the issue.

In this photo released by the Afghan Presidential Palace, Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, center, speaks to U.S. peace envoy Zalmay Khalilzad, third left, at the presidential palace in Kabul, Afghanistan, Jan. 28, 2019.
In this photo released by the Afghan Presidential Palace, Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, center, speaks to U.S. peace envoy Zalmay Khalilzad, third left, at the presidential palace in Kabul, Afghanistan, Jan. 28, 2019.

Khalilzad wrote on Twitter Saturday that any agreement must include details relating to a "comprehensive cease-fire." The New York Times reported him as saying a peace deal could lead to a full pullout of U.S. troops in exchange for a cease-fire and Taliban talks with the Afghan government.

Taliban fighters have been carrying out near-daily attacks on Afghan security forces. President Ghani said last week that about 45,000 security force members had been killed since he took office in 2014. The Taliban currently controls about half the country's territory.

Ghani spoke about the peace talks in a message to the Afghan people Monday.

"Our commitment is to provide peace and to prevent any possible disaster," he said. The president added that any peace agreement should respect the government's "national unity and national sovereignty."

During his address, Ghani noted that U.S. and other foreign forces remain in the country because they are still needed. He said if there is to be any force reductions or pullout, the Afghan government will have to be involved in those discussions. He also repeated a call to the Taliban to agree to hold "direct talks with the Afghan government."

The U.S. military has about 14,000 troops in Afghanistan. About 8,000 troops from 38 other countries are also involved in the effort, which is largely directed against al-Qaida and the Islamic State.

I'm Bryan Lynn.

Bryan Lynn wrote this story for VOA Learning English, based on reports from the Associated Press, Reuters and Agence France-Presse. George Grow was the editor.

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significant adj. important

momentum n. the force that something has when it is moving

resume v. to start again

comprehensive adj. including everything

sovereignty n. a country's independent power and the right to govern itself