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Exploratory meetings in Pakistan between a high-level Taliban delegation and a representative of a prominent Afghan politician have fueled speculation of a revival of long-stalled talks on ending Afghanistan's 16-year war that kills thousands each year. Similar hopes have repeatedly been dashed since the first direct talks between the Western-backed Afghan government and the Taliban broke down almost as soon as they began in the Pakistani hill station of Murree, outside Islamabad, in 2015 .One senior government official in Kabul noted that speculation about peace talks regularly surfaces in the winter, while the Taliban regroups ahead of its spring offensive.Under a new strategy announced last year by U.S. President Donald Trump, the United States has stepped up its assistance to Afghan security forces, particularly through airstrikes, with the aim of preventing any Taliban military victory and forcing the insurgents to accept peace talks.The movement's spokesman denied any involvement in a separate meeting in Turkey that included figures linked to a breakaway Taliban faction and a representative of Hizb-i Islami, a party led by Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, a former Taliban ally who came over to the government side last year.
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