Afghan-Taliban peace talks start in shadow of twin towers anniversary
A day after America mourned the victims of 9/11, talks will begin to try and end its longest-ever military engagement
Talks between the Afghan government and Taliban insurgents start in Qatar's capital Doha on Saturday with the goal of bringing an end to nearly two decades of a conflict that has laid waste to the country and killed tens of thousands of combatants and civilians.
The talks open with an inauguration ceremony which will be attended by US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.
They take place a day after the 19th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks on the United States that triggered its military involvement in Afghanistan.
Officials, diplomats and analysts say that although getting both sides to the negotiating table was an achievement in itself, it does not mean the path to peace will be easy.
"The negotiations will have to tackle a range of profound questions about the kind of country Afghans want," Deborah Lyons, the United Nations Special Representative for Afghanistan, told the UN Security Council this month.
Negotiations to broker a comprehensive peace deal were envisaged in a troop withdrawal pact signed between the United States and the Taliban in February in an attempt to find a political settlement to end the war.
After months of delay, a dispute over the Taliban's demand for the release of 5,000 prisoners was resolved this week.
Ahead of the US presidential election in November, President Donald Trump is also looking to show progress in his pledge to end American involvement in its longest ever military engagement.
The United States has reduced its troop levels and by November is expected to have fewer than 5,000 soldiers in Afghanistan, down from about 13,000 when the US-Taliban deal was signed.
More than 2,300 U.S. troops have been killed in Afghanistan since 2001, and about 450 British soldiers.
Updated: September 12, 2020 11:28 AM