May 9, 2019 / 2:35 PM / 4 months ago

Sixth round of Taliban-U.S. peace talks end

KABUL (Reuters) - U.S. and Taliban negotiators wrapped up their sixth round of peace talks on Thursday with “some progress” made on a draft agreement for when foreign troops might withdraw from Afghanistan, a Taliban official said.

FILE PHOTO: Taliban walk as they celebrate ceasefire in Ghanikhel district of Nangarhar province, Afghanistan June 16, 2018.REUTERS/Parwiz/File Photo

The talks, in which the United States has also sought assurances the Taliban will not allow militant groups to use Afghanistan to stage attacks, began on April 30 in Qatar’s capital Doha.

About 17,000 foreign troops are based in Afghanistan as part of a U.S.-led NATO mission to help local forces.

The United States has been pushing the Taliban to agree to a ceasefire and to talk with Afghanistan’s government, which the militant group considers a U.S. puppet regime.

“The 6th round of talks ... ended, with some progress made on the draft agreement prepared in the last round of talks,” tweeted Muhammad Sohail Shaheen, spokesman for the Taliban’s political office in Doha

“In general, this round was positive and constructive. Both sides listened to each other with care and patience,” he added.

The negotiations included the Taliban’s political chief Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar and a U.S. team led by special envoy Zalmay Khalilzad.

Khalilzad, an Afghan-born veteran U.S. diplomat, had suggested that the warring sides should declare a ceasefire as part of an effort to end the nearly 18-year war.

But the Taliban rejected Khalilzad’s offer and have continued attacks on government buildings and offices of foreign organizations.

On Wednesday, a Taliban attack on a U.S.-based aid group in Kabul killed at least nine people as members of the hardline Islamist group set off a huge explosion and battled security forces for over six hours.

At least 20 civilians were wounded in the attack, which saw several Taliban gunmen storm the Counterpoint International office.

Reporting by Abdul Qadir Sediqi; Writing by Rupam Jain; Editing by Gareth Jones and Andrew Cawthorne

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