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  • U.S. Joint Chiefs Chairman General Mark Milley addresses reporters during a media briefing at the Pentagon in Arlington, Virginia, U.S., Oct. 11, 2019.

    U.S. Joint Chiefs Chairman General Mark Milley addresses reporters during a media briefing at the Pentagon in Arlington, Virginia, U.S., Oct. 11, 2019. | Photo: Reuters

Published 27 November 2019

Hopes for peace talks were revied on Nov. 19 as the Afghan Taliban released two U.S. and one Australian university professors held hostage for more than three years. 

The chairman of the United States Joint Chiefs of Staff Army General Mark Milley said Wednesday that the chances of a successful outcome from peace talks on ending the 18-year war in Afghanistan were higher than before and could happen in the “near term.”

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“With a bit of luck, we’ll have successful negotiations in the near term, not too distant future,” Milley added as he arrived in Afghanistan on Wednesday on his first trip to the country since taking the top job in September.

Hopes for peace talks were revied on Nov. 19 as the Afghan Taliban released two U.S. and one Australian university professors held hostage for more than three years. 

Meanwhile, tensions continue to escalate in the country due to the political crisis caused by delayed election results from the Sept. 28 poll. No clear date has been set to release results, and opposition candidate Abdullah Abdullah has threatened to reject any result announced by the election body. 

Talks between the Taliban and the U.S. aimed at ending the war collapsed on Sept. 7 as President Donald Trump decided to unilaterally cancel talks with Afghanistan’s Taliban leaders after the group claimed the attack in Kabul that killed a U.S. soldier and 11 civilians, despite already having already reached a draft peace deal between the Taliban and the U.S.

The insurgents denounced that an agreement had been “finalized” and that discussions had ended in “a good atmosphere,” but the deal had been sabotaged by Trump.

In an interview with Russia's RT, senior Taliban negotiator Sher Mohammad Abbas Stanikzai expressed hope that Trump would rethink his position and come back to the negotiating table but also warned that if no agreement is reached the Taliban are ready to fight "for 100 years."

“The aim is to still get a peace agreement at some point, a political agreement. That is the best way forward,” United States Defense Secretary Mark Esper said last month as he met with President Ashraf Ghani and U.S. troops while in Afghanistan.

The U.S. military also said that it had quietly reduced the number of troops by about 2,000, to bring the total number of U.S. troops in Afghanistan to between 12,000 and 13,000.

Yet without an end in sight, the war in Afghanistan will continue to be Washington’s longest conflict in its history. It was started after the Sept. 11 attacks in New York City when the U.S. invaded Afghanistan as part of the so-called "war on terror" to dismantle Al-Qaeda by removing the Taliban from power. 

Almost US$975 billion has been spent and approximately 220,000 people have died.

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