WASHINGTON     -   The Taliban have called on the US to restart talks on ending the 18-year-old war in Afghanistan, urging the Trump administration to revisit a nearly completed deal after it abruptly withdrew from the process last week. President Donald Trump this week declared talks with the Taliban to be dead after cancelling a secret meeting with Taliban and Afghan officials at Camp David. However, he added in the same remarks, on Monday, that meetings are the only way to end wars. The departure this week of national security adviser John Bolton, a vocal critic of the proposed summit being planned in secrecy and known only to a small number of officials, could open the door to further engagements with the insurgent group. “The removal of such a prominent administration foe of talks could signal Trump’s intention to circle back to negotiations,” said Michael Kugelman, of the Wilson Centre, a think tank in Washington. “By removing Bolton, he reduces the likelihood of White House resistance the next time around.’’ Chief US negotiator Zalmay Khalilzad has continued to schedule meetings with counterparts for the remainder of this month, according to people familiar with his plans, a sign that there may still be a chance to resuscitate the process. The Taliban spokesman in Qatar called on Trump on Friday to return to the negotiating table and honour the administration’s commitments to an agreement worked out by a team of US negotiators following nine rounds of talks in the Persian Gulf state. “We want resolution, not escalation of the issue — that is why we concluded the peace agreement with the US,” he said.

“In our view, peaceful solution of the Afghan issue is the best solution. But if US opts for continuation of the war, they will find us in the field strong and unwavering as ever.”

The Taliban’s spokesman added that the group remains ready to sign the deal, which he said is about 3½ pages long.