Reuters reports the official body overseeing the Afghan peace process and other influential players in the region have criticized President Ashraf Ghani for pushing for U.S. troops to stay longer, saying it could hurt the chances of ending the Taliban insurgency. Talks between the government and Taliban have yet to begin, although militant leaders have signaled that they are ready to negotiate through Pakistani mediation. The conflict costs thousands of lives each year. Progress towards highly sensitive talks appears to have stalled, in part over divisions within the Taliban. The U.S. announcement during Ghani's recent visit to Washington to slow the pace at which it would wind down a force of 9,800 soldiers, and allow them to stay through the end of 2015, could further complicate the process.