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Afghan government, Taliban to resume peace talks in January

FILE PHOTO: Taliban delegates shake hands during talks between the Afghan government and Taliban insurgents in Doha, Qatar September 12, 2020. REUTERS/Ibraheem al Omari

KABUL (Reuters) - Peace talks between the Afghan government and Taliban insurgents will resume in early January as the warring sides take a break after reaching agreement on procedural ground rules for sustaining their dialogue to end the war.

The talks between the Afghan sides began in Qatar in September, months after the United States and the Taliban struck a deal on the withdrawal of the remaining 12,000 U.S. troops in exchange for Taliban security guarantees and a commitment to talk peace.

Members of the Afghan government delegation said on Monday they would travel back to Kabul from Doha.

“We’re taking a break for now and will be ready to discuss the agenda when talks resume,” said a senior Afghan official overseeing diplomatic communications with the Taliban.

A Taliban spokesman was not immediately available for comment.

Despite the peace process, violence in Afghanistan has not ended. There are regular clashes in various parts of the country and bomb and rocket attacks in Kabul.

Last week, the U.S. forces carried out an air strike against Taliban insurgents to protect government forces in Kandahar province in a rare U.S. intervention since their pact with the Taliban.

Afghan officials in the southern province told media the Taliban were planning coordinated attacks on security forces when the U.S. military bombed them, killing more than 20 Taliban fighters.

The Taliban accused the United States and the Afghan government of killing civilians in the air strike.

Reporting by Hamid Shalizi, Abdul Qadir Sediqi in Kabul, Writing by Rupam Jain; Editing by Robert Birsel