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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.

Go deeper

Updated Nov 19, 2020 - World

Australia finds evidence of war crimes by elite troops in Afghanistan

Chief of the Australian Defense Force General Angus Campbell delivers the findings from the Inspector-General of the Australian Defense Force Afghanistan Inquiry, in Canberra Thursday morning local time. Photo: Mick Tasikas/Pool/AFP via Getty Images

Allegations that elite Australian Defense Force troops unlawfully killed 39 civilians or prisoners in Afghanistan are "credible," said ADF chief Gen. Angus Campbell, announcing findings of a long-awaited report Thursday.

Driving the news: The findings came after a four-year inquiry into alleged war crimes and misconduct by Australia's elite special forces. The report finds most of the people killed in 23 incidents were prisoners and that those who died were "non-combatants or no longer combatants."

Updated 1 hour ago - Politics & Policy

Capitol review panel recommends more police, mobile fencing

Photo: Olivier Douliery/AFP via Getty Images

A panel appointed by Congress to review security measures at the Capitol is recommending several changes, including mobile fencing and a bigger Capitol police force, to safeguard the area after a riotous mob breached the building on Jan. 6.

Why it matters: Law enforcement officials have warned there could be new plots to attack the area and target lawmakers, including during a speech President Biden is expected to give to a joint session of Congress.

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