The United States will withdraw half of its troops from Afghanistan by April, the Taliban said in Moscow on Wednesday.

The Taliban deputy chief negotiator, Salam Hanafi, also said that after the US announces a full withdrawal, the Taliban will negotiate with the Afghan government.

Talks between the Taliban and senior Afghan figures – but not members of the government – are in Moscow for peace talks following a breakthrough last month.

The United States held peace talks with the Taliban in Qatar last month that ended with signs of progress towards the withdrawal of thousands of foreign troops from Afghanistan and an end to more than 17 years of war.

The Taliban’s refusal to meet with the Afghan government is seen as a major stumbling block to lasting peace in the country which has been at war for four decades – nearly two of which between US and Afghan forces, and the Taliban.

The Taliban see the Afghan government as a puppet of the United States, their real enemy and a foreign invading power.

But with presidential elections in Afghanistan in June, the pressure for President Ashraf Ghani to cease the war, in which civilians are the biggest victims, is mounting.

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