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Afghan leader reports "notable progress" in U.S. talks with Taliban

Report: Officials misled public on Afghan war

Kabul, Afghanistan — The U.S. and the Taliban appeared closer Wednesday to a breakthrough in talks over an American troop withdrawal from Afghanistan, after Afghan President Ashraf Ghani said there had been "notable progress" in negotiations.

Washington and the insurgents have been locked in gruelling discussions that have stretched over more than a year for a deal that would see the U.S. pull thousands of troops out of Afghanistan.

In return, the Taliban would provide various security guarantees and launch eventual talks with the Kabul government.

In a series of tweets late Tuesday, Ghani said U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo had called him to inform him of developments in the talks, which are taking place in Doha.

"Today, I was pleased to receive a call from @SecPompeo, informing me of the notable progress made in the ongoing peace talks with the Taliban," Ghani said on his official Twitter account.

"The Secretary informed me about the Taliban's proposal with regards to bringing a significant and enduring reduction in violence."

Taliban and Afghan government sources in Doha and Kabul told CBS News' Sami Yousafzai that the U.S. and the Taliban had agreed a path forward that would see the Taliban commit to reduce violence for a longer period that they previously have.

If the Taliban show they can stop attacks in that initial test period, then U.S. would sign a deal authorizing a military withdrawal from the country.

Afghan women fear they'll lose rights if the Taliban regains power

A Taliban negotiator in Doha told CBS News that they expected a firm U.S. response to the proposed agreement within a few days. 

"If the Taliban are determined to reduce violence in the initial days of the test period then the U.S. will be more likely to sign the U.S. withdrawal deal," an Afghan government official told CBS News.

Citing Afghan and U.S. officials, the New York Times reported that U.S. President Donald Trump had given conditional approval to a deal with the Taliban.

The two foes have been on the brink of a breakthrough before, with a deal all but complete in September before Mr. Trump nixed it at the last moment amid continued Taliban violence.

The Times said Mr. Trump would only give final approval to the deal if the Taliban stick to a reduction in violence of "about seven days later this month."  

Despite ongoing talks between the U.S. and the Taliban, Afghanistan's war has raged on, with the number of clashes jumping to record levels in the last quarter of 2019, according to a recent U.S. government watchdog report.

In his annual State of the Union address on February 4, Mr Trump renewed his vow to negotiate a troop withdrawal from Afghanistan.

"We are working to finally end America's longest war and bring our troops back home," he said, offering his blessing for the negotiations with the Taliban.

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