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Afghan Peace Talks Said Ready to Get Underway

Diplomatic and Afghanistan government sources are reported as saying that peace talks with the Taliban are set to take place in Doha, the capital of Qatar, following pre-conditioned prisoner releases by both sides. Javid Faisal, a spokesman for Kabul’s National Security Council, tweeted that diplomatic efforts were “ongoing” with regard to a small number of prisoners who remained jailed, but added that Afghani government officials “expect direct talks to start promptly.” The Taliban have issued no statements on the matter. The Reuters news agency cites a government official in Kabul as saying that talks could begin as early as Saturday, although another source told Reuters that a Thursday departure by government negotiators had been placed on hold. In February, the United States brokered an agreement with the Taliban to curb violence and release prisoners as preconditions for peace talks. The prisoner releases have been the main sticking point, with Kabul initially having dug in its heels. Washington is interested in exiting Afghanistan, which is considered its longest war, with involvement having begun just after the 9/11 attacks in September 2001.