Afghan peace: Khalilzad hopes for peace deal with Taliban before April 2019

Pauline Gross
November 20, 2018

Khalilzad, an Afghan-born diplomat authorized by U.S. President Donald Trump's government to lead negotiations with the Taliban, on Sunday said he hoped to cut a peace deal by April 20, a deadline that coincides with the date set for presidential elections in Afghanistan.

In the three months following Pompeo's visit, the Taliban demonstrated their resilience even as the US military continued its focus on training and advising the Afghan army and police while helping develop an Afghan air force.

Taliban leaders met US special envoy Zalmay Khalilzad at their political headquarters in Qatar last week for the second time in the past month, spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid said.

The insurgents, fighting to expel foreign forces and defeat the Western-backed Afghan government, last month presented demands to Khalilzad that included a timeline for the withdrawal of United States troops and the release of senior Taliban from jails.

A third individual with knowledge of the discussions said the Taliban pressed for a postponement of next year's presidential elections and the establishment of an interim government under a neutral leadership.

In October, Pakistan released one of the co-founders of the Taliban and another high-ranking commander.

In the meantime, informed sources have told Western media outlets that Ambassador Khalilzad met with the Taliban political leaders in Qatar during separate meetings which lasted for three days.

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In a lengthy statement issued earlier this month, the Taliban had demanded the lifting of sanctions against the group's leaders, the release of prisoners and the recognition of their office in Qatar.

Khairkhwa and Fazl were among five senior Taliban members released from the US military detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba in 2014 in exchange for a captured USA soldier, Bowe Bergdahl.

The effort has intensified since Zalmay Khalilzad, a former US ambassador to Kabul, was appointed a special USA envoy to Afghanistan in September.

"We were astonished to see Khalilzad's statement in Kabul on Sunday".

Khalilzad is trying to cobble together a negotiating team comprising influential Afghans to reassure the US-backed government in Kabul that it will not be shut out of a peace process.

The U.S. State Department has refused to comment on reported talks between U.S. officials and the Taliban. "He wrongly quoted us, saying that the Taliban admitted that militarily we would not succeed", said a senior Taliban member in Afghanistan.

Other reports by GizPress

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