Jul 22, 3:44 PM EDT

Obama praises Afghan efforts to reconcile with Taliban

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WASHINGTON (AP) -- President Barack Obama has expressed support for Afghanistan's efforts to reconcile with the Taliban.

Obama spoke by video conference on Wednesday with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani. The White House says Obama praised Ghani for promoting the peace process.

The two leaders also spoke about U.S. efforts to advise and strengthen Afghanistan's military and to counter terrorist threats. Obama cited the Kabul government's progress in fighting corruption and improving the economy.

Taliban insurgents have stepped up their attacks on Afghan soldiers and police in recent months. U.S. and NATO troops formally ended their combat mission at the end of 2014, leaving Afghan forces in charge of security.

Earlier Wednesday, a suicide bomber attacked a crowded market in northern Afghanistan, killing at least 19 people.

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