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KABUL, Afghanistan — A senior Afghan official said his government will soon begin peace talks with the Taliban aimed at ending the group's decade-long violent insurgency.
Speaking during an open cabinet meeting on Tuesday, Chief Executive Abdullah Abdullah — Afghanistan’s second most powerful official — said the talks would be held "within weeks."
"The vast majority of people of Afghanistan desire restoration of lasting peace with dignity and we hope that the beginning of peace talks will help achieve this goal," Abdullah said. He did not provide further details on the timing.
Two senior Afghan Taliban officials — one in Afghanistan's Helmand Province and one in Qatar — confirmed to NBC News that the group was planning to hold talks with the Afghan government.
According to the official in the militants' stronghold of Helmand, a Taliban delegation was planning to travel from Qatar to Pakistan for consultations with the officials ahead of talks.
Afghanistan and Pakistan have long accused each other of sheltering Taliban militants. In recent months, Pakistan's government has put put significant pressure on the Taliban to enter into negotiations with the Afghan government.
That pressure has played an important role in the latest developments, the Taliban commander in Helmand said.
“Some of our people oppose talks with the Afghan government because they think they had strengthened hands of the foreign occupying forces,” he said. “But it is ... time to talk to anyone if that can help restore peace to our war-torn country.