U.S. Peace Envoy Khalilzad Makes Surprise Stop In Kabul
U.S. peace envoy Zalmay Khalilzad arrived in Kabul on December 4 at the start of his latest round of talks to find a solution to the 18-year Afghan conflict.
Khalilzad held talks with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani and other senior officials before flying to Doha, in Qatar, where he will restart talks with the Taliban, according to a U.S. State Department statement.
The talks would be the first official round of negotiations since September when President Donald Trump abruptly canceled negotiations with the militants after a surge in violence killed 12 people in Kabul, including a U.S. soldier.
Ghani repeated his call for a cease-fire during his meeting with Khalilzad.
A Taliban official speaking on condition of anonymity said the group has held informal talks with the Americans, without specifying the location or who participated.
Khalilzad’s visit comes just days after Trump visited U.S. troops in Afghanistan for the Thanksgiving holiday, when he indicated a resumption of peace talks with the Taliban was possible.
Trump said the U.S. and Taliban had been engaged in negotiations and insisted the militants want to make a deal after heavy U.S. fire in recent months.
The State Department statement said Khalilzad’s Kabul and Doha talks are a follow-up to Trump’s recent visit and to discuss how best to support accelerated efforts to get all parties to intra-Afghan negotiations.”
In Doha, Khalilzad will be pushing for a cease-fire or at least a reduction in violence with an eye to an eventual end to fighting.
Ayaz Gul for VOA Reports
Taliban insist that under the deal it negotiated with the U.S, the insurgent group had committed itself to observe a cease-fire with foreign troops to facilitate their drawdown and open peace talks with Afghan stakeholders for ending decades of hostilities in the country.
Insurgent officials say, however, a cease-fire with Afghan security forces will be on the agenda when the intra-Afghan negotiations begin. Those talks, they maintain, will he held with representatives of the larger Afghan society where government officials will participate in their private capacity and not as Kabul envoys.
For their part, Ghani’s aides insist any peace negotiations with the Taliban must be led by the Afghan government. Taliban-Afghan talks remain a daunting challenge for Khalilzad and his team to deal with, say analysts.
The Taliban, which controls or influences nearly half of Afghan territory, refuses to engage with the Kabul government, dismissing it as an illegitimate entity and a product of the “American occupation” of Afghanistan.