US, Taliban to open Doha talks in fresh bid to end war

In this file photo, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo meets with, from left, Resolute Support NATO Base Commander Gen. Austin Scott Miller, Afghanistan Envoy Zalmay Khalilzad, U.S. Ambassador to Afghanistan John Bass, Pompeo, Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, Afghan Chief Executive Abdullah Abdullah, and former Afghan President Hamid Karzai, Tuesday, June 25, 2019, during an unannounced visit to Kabul, Afghanistan. 

Islamabad: A fresh round of talks between the U.S. and the Taliban is to begin in Qatar, just days after US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Washington is hoping for an Afghan peace agreement before September 1.

Suhail Shaheen, spokesman for the Taliban's political office in Doha, tells The Associated Press talks with U.S. peace envoy Zalmay Khalilzad will begin early Saturday morning.

The focus of the talks will be on the withdrawal of U.S. troops and Taliban guarantees to prevent Afghanistan from again hosting militants who can stage global attacks.

The latest round of talks comes amid heightened expectations that followed Pompeo's optimistic time frame for a pact to end Afghanistan's nearly 18-year war and America's longest-running military engagement.