US Joint Chiefs chief meets Taliban

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The United States’ top general met Taliban representatives this week in Qatar, urging them to reduce the level of violence and move swiftly to a political solution in Afghanistan, the US military said.

The meeting in Doha with the US Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Mark Milley, comes as negotiators representing the Afghan government and the Taliban break until January 5 when they will continue to work on an agenda.

Milley met Taliban officials in June but that meeting was not publicly announced, said a US official, speaking on the condition of anonymity.

The meetings are believed to be the first time a chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff met the Taliban, although Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and the top US military official in Afghanistan met them previously.

“The chairman discussed the need for an immediate reduction of violence and accelerating progress to a negotiated political solution contributing to regional stability and safeguarding US national interests,” a US military statement said.

During his trip, Milley met Afghan President Ashraf Ghani in Kabul.

President Donald Trump will reduce the number of troops in Afghanistan to 2 500 from 4 500 by mid-January, stopping short of a threatened full withdrawal from America’s longest war after fierce opposition from allies at home and abroad.

There has been a rise in violence, undermining hopes to end the war ravaging Afghanistan since 2001.

Pompeo said this month violence in Afghanistan was “unacceptably high” and said Washington asked the warring parties to “stand back and indeed stand down.”