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Trump Says Afghanistan Peace Talks 'Proceeding Well'

U.S. President Donald Trump

President Donald Trump has expressed cautious satisfaction over the progress of peace talks with the Taliban in Afghanistan, following six days of talks between the U.S. special envoy for the conflict-wracked country and Taliban negotiators last week.

"Negotiating are proceeding well in Afghanistan after 18 years of fighting," Trump tweeted on January 30.

"Fighting continues but the people of Afghanistan want peace in this never ending war. We will soon see if talks will be successful?" he wrote in a separate tweet.

Trump's comments come after both the Taliban and Zalmay Khalilzad, the U.S. special representative for Afghanistan reconciliation, said that "progress" had been made in talks in Qatar.

In an interview with The New York Times published on January 28, Khalilzad said that the sides had agreed in principle to the "framework" of a peace deal to end the Afghan war.

He said that the draft "framework" calls for the Taliban to prevent international terrorist groups from basing themselves in Afghanistan. That could lead to a full pullout of U.S. forces from the country, but only in return for the Taliban entering talks with the Afghan government and agreeing to a lasting cease-fire.

Speaking to reporters in Kabul later in the day, the U.S. envoy said, "There is a lot more work to be done before we can say we have succeeded in our efforts, but I believe for the first time I can say that we have made significant progress."

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani told a conference in Kabul on January 30 that the "key to peace was in Afghanistan," while the "keys to war are in Islamabad, Quetta, [and] Rawalpindi" -- meaning Pakistan.

Afghan and U.S. officials have long accused Pakistan of providing a safe haven for terrorists operating in Afghanistan, a charge Islamabad fiercely denies.

In November, Ghani announced that his government had formed a 12-strong negotiating team to seek a peace agreement with the Taliban, as he laid out what he called a "road map" for the talks.

The Western-backed government in Kabul has struggled to fend off a resurgent Taliban and other militant groups since the withdrawal of most NATO troops in 2014.

The Taliban has so far refused to hold direct negotiations with Afghan government officials, whom they dismiss as U.S. "puppets." The militants have said they will only begin talks with the government once a firm date for the withdrawal of U.S. troops has been agreed.

However, a spokesman said on January 30 that the Taliban was not seeking a "monopoly on power" in a future administration.

"After the end of the occupation, Afghans should forget their past and tolerate one another and start life like brothers. After the withdrawal, we are not seeking a monopoly on power," Suhail Shaheen, a Taliban spokesman based in Qatar, told the Associated Press in an audio message.

With reporting by AP and The New York Times