USA envoy to Afghanistan Zalmay Khalilzad on India visit

Clay Curtis
January 10, 2019

Afghan Taliban representatives and U.S. officials will sit down to two days of peace talks on Wednesday in Qatar but Afghan government officials will not be involved, senior Taliban members say. "The meeting will continue for two days", a senior member of the Taliban said on condition of anonymity.

USA special envoy to Afghanistan Zalmay Khalilzad.

"If it happens, it will not be in the interests of Afghanistan", said Abdullah.

When asked if a meeting this week between U.S. officials and the Taliban in Saudi Arabia would take place, Daudzai said: "Unless they [Taliban] agree to meet with the Afghan government face to face, that kind of meetings may be hard to be continued".

Another senior Taliban leader confirmed the Qatar meeting and said no other country would be involved.

While denying it made a specific overture to Shamkani, the spokeswoman repeated that Trump is open to a dialog with Iran on "urgent national security issues" and wants Tehran to "make fundamental changes in their destructive behavior".

He expressed hope that Afghan Taliban would soon sit with the Afghan government and hold talks.

The urgency of the latest round of peace efforts comes partly out of panic generated by reports last month that US President Donald Trump's planned to withdraw 5,000 of the 14,000 troops from Afghanistan, triggering uncertainty over how the US would carry on training Afghan forces and waging an air campaign against militant groups, in the absence of which a resurgent Taliban would get an opportunity to expand its offensives across Afghanistan.

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Pakistani officials say Afghanistan will need foreign economic aid for years, even after any peace agreement has been signed, and have also been trying to push the Taliban to accept talks with Kabul.

U.S. Special Representative for Afghanistan Reconciliation Zalmay Khalilzad has held three rounds of talks with the Taliban, but on Tuesday, the militants cancelled a fourth round, which had been due in Qatar this week.

"Earlier, Taliban had refused to allow inclusion of representative of Afghanistan government despite requests from both Pakistan and Afghanistan".

As peace talks gained momentum a draft agreement drawn up by the influential USA think tank RAND Corporation outlining the clauses for a potential peace deal was circulated among Afghan officials and diplomats in Kabul.

The document, reviewed by Reuters, suggests that the United States and North Atlantic Treaty Organisation withdraw their military missions in phases over an expected period of 18 months, but the United States may continue providing civilian assistance. It adds that the United States may continue providing civilian assistance. Zarif said it was up to Afghans to decide what role the Taliban should have but Afghanistan's neighbours would not want them to be in overall control. He denied that Kabul was being marginalized in the peace process and said all countries pursuing negotiations were briefing the government every step of the way.

Sources close to the Taliban leadership revealed to Al Arabiya English that Taliban may back off from peace talks if both Pakistan and Saudi Arabia insist on including Afghanistan government. He has urged India to go beyond its existing role in supporting infrastructure development in the war-torn country, preferably by sending troops to improve the security situation in Afghanistan.

The United States sent troops to Afghanistan after the September 11, 2001, attacks on NY and Washington.

Now a US-led North Atlantic Treaty Organisation operation, Operation Resolute, provide counterterrorism and air support to the Afghan army.

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