Closed-door two-day first round of talks was attended by Taliban delegation from Qatar head by Mullah Abbas Durrani, representatives of Qatar, UAE, United States, China, Norway and delegation of Afghan government.

It said the participants exchanged views on ways to bring peace and reconciliation in Afghanistan, adding it was agreed that for lasting peace in the region, each side would approach the process in sincerity and with full commitment.

“A delegation from the High Peace Council of Afghanistan has traveled to Pakistan for negotiations with the Taliban”, read a statement posted on Afghan President Ashraf Ghani’s official Twitter account.

ISIS declared a so-called province in Afghanistan and Pakistan in January, comprised of former Taliban members, and in the last month managed to seize “substantial territory”, from the insurgent group, according to an exclusive report from Reuters.

North Atlantic Treaty Organisation ended its combat mission at the end of December, leaving Afghan forces to battle the resurgent Taliban on their own.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said China backed the process and was in touch with all sides.

The Afghan government “will speak during negotiations from a strong position”, Ghani said in a statement on Tuesday night.

Previous efforts to start a dialogue had stalled.

It is unclear the extent to which the Taliban central leadership is able to control commanders on the ground – younger and in some cases more hardline than the old guard.

Tensions have risen along the Afghan-Pakistani border in recent months.

The Afghan Foreign Ministry said Wednesday that it hoped the talks “would be a starting point for the process so it could prevent the shedding of more innocent Afghans’ blood and further destruction of the country”. Participants said they discussed women’s rights and other issues such as girls’ education and health matters.

The talks have been hailed as a “breakthrough” by Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif.

While some violence continues to be directed at global forces, they are not the only ones being targeted. Noor hospital head Jamal Abdul Naser Akhundzad said the girls were told “this is punishment for going to school”, which, if true, would be in line with other instances in which Islamist extremists have attacked girls for pursuing their education.

Al Jazeera’s Jennifer Glasse, reporting from Kabul, said the first attack, which was claimed by the Taliban, took place a few kilometres east of the centre of the city and plumes of smoke could be seen after the attack. Still, Islamabad’s hosting of the talks raises suspicion among some Afghan politicians, who believe Pakistan is aiming to wield dominance over their country.

However, the White House hailed the talks and praised the Pakistani government for helping facilitate the meeting.