Negotiations between the Taliban and US officials in Qatar entered a fourth straight day Thursday, according to the insurgents, as the two sides pursue a potential deal to bring an end to Afghanistan’s 17-year conflict. Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid confirmed to AFP that “discussions are still ongoing”.“We will talk in detail later when we reach agreement,” the spokesman added. Washington has been stepping up efforts for a peace deal that could pave the way for the Taliban’s participation in the next government.“Both sides are discussing the various aspects of the US troops’ withdrawal,” a senior Taliban commander based in an unknown location in Pakistan told AFP, adding that a statement could be released later in the day or on Friday. The Pakistan foreign ministry also confirmed that talks were ongoing between the two sides. However there was no immediate comment from the US embassy or NATO in Kabul.The US said Tuesday it had resumed talks with the insurgents in Qatar, where special envoy Zalmay Khalilzad was meeting Taliban representatives. Rahimullah Yusufzai, an expert on the Taliban, said the continuation of the talks represented “unprecedented” progress.“I have never seen anything like this before,” he said. “This is the first serious effort. And it has continued since July… they have agreed to disagree and continued to meet. That’s why it’s unprecedented.”Talks have primarily focused on three major points: the withdrawal of US troops, a vow to prevent Afghan soil from being a base for attacks on other countries, and a potential ceasefire, according to Yusufzai.Washington wants the insurgents to enter talks with the Afghan government, but they have long refused, denouncing Kabul as a US puppet.Published in Daily Times, January 25th 2019.