U.S. Joint Chiefs Chairman General Mark Milley addresses reporters during a media briefing at the Pentagon in Arlington, Virginia, U.S., October 11, 2019. (REUTERS/Erin Scott)

KABUL (Reuters) - The top U.S. general said on Wednesday that the chances of a successful outcome from peace talks on ending the 18-year war in Afghanistan were higher than before and could happen in the "near term."

Earlier this month the Afghan Taliban released American and Australian university professors held hostage for more than three years, raising hopes for a revival of peace talks.

The chances of successful peace talks are complicated by the Taliban's refusal to engage with what they call an "illegitimate" U.S.-backed government in Kabul.

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JOINT BASE LEWIS-MCCHORD, Washington (Reuters) - U.S. Defense Secretary Mark Esper said on Wednesday he was open to new alterations in U.S. military activity on the Korean Peninsula if it helped enable diplomats, who are trying to jump-start stalled peace efforts with North Korea.

Esper did not predict whether he might end up "dialing up or dialing down" such activity, as he spoke to a small group of reporters at Joint Base Lewis-McChord on his way to South Korea after North Korea threatened to retaliate if the United States goes ahead with scheduled military drills with South Korea.

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Editor's Note: This article originally appeared on Business Insider.

North Korea on Sunday accused the US of "misleading" the public on the status of nuclear talks a day after discussions between the two sides in Stockholm broke down within just hours following an eight-month stalemate.

The North Korean Foreign Ministry said the Trump administration was "misleading the public opinion by touting 'good discussions,'" The Washington Post reported, as it simultaneously warned that if the US does not change its approach by the end of the year then relations between the two countries "may immediately come to an end."

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Taliban chief negotiator Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar sits in a car after the end of peace talks with Afghan senior politicians in Moscow, Russia May 30, 2019. (Reuters/Evgenia Novozhenina)

An Afghan Taliban delegation was due in Pakistan on October 2, the militant group said, as the U.S. special envoy for Afghan peace talks also met government officials there.

It was not known if the Taliban and U.S. official would meet

One of the group's founders, Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, said the delegation will discuss "important issues" with Pakistani officials in Islamabad, the country's capital.

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DUBAI (Reuters) - Iran held talks with a delegation from Afghanistan's Taliban, the Foreign Ministry said on Tuesday, a week after peace talks between the United States and the Islamist insurgents collapsed.

Iran said in December it had been meeting with Taliban representatives with the knowledge of the Afghan government, after reports of U.S.-Taliban talks about a ceasefire and a possible withdrawal of foreign troops.

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Acting Army Secretary Ryan McCarthy said he agreed with President Donald Trump's decision to cancel his meeting with the Taliban.

McCarthy, speaking at his nomination hearing on Thursday in front of the Senate Armed Services Committee, was asked by Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.). about the White House's "abrupt end" to peace talks, and if the administration's "policy of conducting diplomacy through Twitter" has made it more difficult for the Army in Afghanistan.

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