KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) — Afghanistan expects to hold direct talks with the Taliban by the end of this month, an official said Sunday.
Foreign Ministry spokesman Ahmad Shakib Mostaghani told reporters that Afghanistan, Pakistan, China and the United States had agreed on a roadmap toward peace talks at a meeting in Islamabad the day before. He said the government hopes to "put an end to the futile violence which is imposed on our people."
The last direct talks between Kabul and the Taliban broke down after just one session last summer when Kabul announced that the Taliban's reclusive, longtime leader Mullah Mohammad Omar died two years ago.
The next four-country meeting is scheduled for Feb. 23 in Kabul. The Taliban are not taking part in those talks, which aim to lay the groundwork for peace talks.
The Afghan government has long accused Pakistan of granting the insurgents safe haven across the porous border, charges denied by Islamabad. But Pakistan is widely believed to have influence over the Taliban and is seen as a key player in any peace efforts.
At the Saturday meeting, the third since the peace process was relaunched last month, the four nations called for direct negotiations between the government and the Taliban to take place soon, despite an escalation in the war since the drawdown of the international combat mission in 2014.
Afghan forces have struggled to fight off the Taliban, who have spread their footprint across the country, leading to high casualties among Afghan forces and fear among the population that the insurgency is gaining strength.