Abdullah Abdullah, the head of the Afghan government delegation at the peace talks, speaking in Doha, Qatar, on Sept. 12. Photo: Stringer/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

Delegates from the Afghanistan government and the Taliban opened direct peace negotiations in Doha, Qatar, on Saturday after repeated delays, seeking to bring roughly two decades of fighting to a close.

Why it matters: Afghanistan’s leaders said they want to end the war that has left millions dead and displaced, though the talks began amid a U.S. troop withdrawal and violence perpetrated against Afghan officials and civilians, the New York Times writes.

Context: The talks became viable after the U.S. and the Taliban signed a deal in February aimed at ending the longest war in U.S. history.

  • The U.S. agreed to gradually pull troops out of the country, while the Taliban promised to prevent terror groups from filling the void and to enter peace negotiations with the Afghan government.

What they're saying: "What an honor to join today's Intra-Afghan Negotiations in Doha. It is remarkable — and a testament to the human spirit — that the pain and patterns of destruction are no match for the enduring hopes for peace held by the Afghan people, and their many friends," Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said in a tweet.

  • "The Taliban must seize this opportunity to forge a political settlement & reach a comprehensive & permanent ceasefire to end 40 years of war. This effort must be Afghan led," Pompeo added.
  • “We have come here with good will and good intentions,” Abdullah Abdullah, chairman of Afghanistan's High Council for National Reconciliation and the leader o the delegation from Kabul, said in opening remarks, according to the Wall Street Journal. “We want all of the people of Afghanistan to be reunited under one roof again.”

The big picture: Participants in the talks have acknowledged that forging an agreement will be difficult, as there are deep disagreements between the two sides and the conflict is ongoing, according to the BBC.

  • Pompeo this week shared plans for U.S. troops in Afghanistan to be slashed from roughly 8,400 to about 4,500, adding that action along with a decrease in the U.S. military presence in Iraq, would move forward so long as it does not compromise U.S. security.

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