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Peace talks at 'snail's pace' due to Taliban, says Afghan government

Peace talks at 'snail's pace' due to Taliban, says Afghan government

Afghan authorities on Wednesday criticized the Taliban for not actively participating in peace talks that seek to end the country's long war.

After months of deliberations and a first round that failed to achieve any major breakthrough, the Afghan government and the Taliban are meeting again in Qatar, but so far only discussing the agenda for the second round.

"Unfortunately, the talks are proceeding at a snail's pace," Waheed Omar, media adviser to President Ashraf Ghani, told reporters.

"The Taliban do not have a clear vision. We do not see changes in them."

Kabul is pressing for a permanent ceasefire and to protect the governance arrangements in place since the expulsion of the Taliban by a US-led invasion following the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001.

But since the second round of talks began on January 6 in Doha, there have been no significant announcements on how the negotiations were progressing.

The talks have been clouded by an increase in violence, with a recent series of high-profile killings of officials, judges, journalists and activists that left the war-weary country reeling.

Omar said there were no plans to release more Taliban prisoners to help fuel the talks, and said the government's previous experience in releasing insurgents failed to reduce fighting.

"The Taliban not only did not reduce the violence, they increased the violence," Omar said.

Before the start of the peace talks on September 12, the authorities released more than 5,000 Taliban prisoners as required by the group in an agreement with Washington last year.

In return, the Taliban agreed to give some security guarantees and participate in peace talks aimed at ending the country's war.

Under the landmark agreement signed last year, the United States has pledged to withdraw all foreign forces from Afghanistan by May 2021.

Both the Taliban and the Afghan government eagerly await the inauguration of President-elect Joe Biden and any new political direction from the incoming administration.

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