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US Afghanistan envoy Khalilzad to restart talks with the Taliban in Doha

The U.S. negotiator on Afghanistan will shortly resume talks with the Taliban, the State Department said Wednesday, three months after President Donald Trump abruptly halted negotiations.

Zalmay Khalilzad will head to Qatar to “rejoin talks with the Taliban to discuss steps that could lead to intra-Afghan negotiations and a peaceful settlement of the war, specifically a reduction in violence that leads to a ceasefire,” a State Department statement said.

Khalilzad will first meet with Afghan government representatives in Kabul, the statement said.

In a nod to concerns raised by Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, the State Department voiced support for a ceasefire, a key priority for Kabul before any negotiations with the insurgents.

In September, the United States and the Taliban had appeared on the verge of signing a deal that would have seen Washington begin pulling thousands of troops out of Afghanistan in return for security guarantees.

It was also expected to pave the way towards direct talks between the Taliban and the government in Kabul and, ultimately, a possible peace agreement after more than 18 years of war.

But that same month, Trump abruptly called the year-long effort “dead” and withdrew an invitation to the insurgents to meet in the United States after the killing of an American soldier.

During a surprise visit to an American military base in Afghanistan last week, Trump said the Taliban “wants to make a deal.”

But the insurgents later said it was “way too early” to speak of resuming direct talks with Washington.

Even during the stall in talks, Khalilzad has in recent weeks continued his whistle-stop tour of various nations with a stake in Afghan peace, including Pakistan.

He recently arranged a captive swap in which the Taliban released an American and an Australian academic whom they had held hostage for three years.

The Taliban have until now refused to negotiate with the Afghan government, which they consider an illegitimate regime.


With reporting from AFP

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