US seeking peace agreement in Afghanistan: Khalilzad

Sergio Conner
February 11, 2019

Negotiations that would lead to a withdrawal of U.S. forces from Afghanistan continue to advance, but are a long way from completion, the top U.S. envoy to U.S. -Taliban peace talks said Friday.

"We have tried to develop a long agenda of issues that must be addressed".

"It will be better for Afghanistan if we could get a peace agreement before the election, which is scheduled in July", he said.

"The timing of a peace settlement from our point of view is the sooner is better", Mr Khalilzad said.

Islamabad, running short of foreign exchange reserves and in talks with the International Monetary Fund over what would be its 13th bailout since the 1980s, says it can not afford to see Afghanistan slide into chaos just as Pakistan is trying to attract foreign investors to shore up its own economy.

Since being appointed in September, Khalilzad has met with all sides in an attempt to end America's longest war in which the U.S. has lost over 2,400 soldiers in more than 17 years.

He said that talks between two opposing powers are meant to achieve a mutual resolution to outstanding issues and the re-establishment of peace and stability.

Elections in Afghanistan had originally been slated for April 20 but were postponed for three months as peace talks progressed.

Khalilzad confirmed a framework deal is already in place, though he downplayed this, saying major hurdles remain, and also downplayed the chances of United States troops actually leaving the country in the near term.

"They made it clear to us that we (Taliban) have to talk to the USA and Afghan government", the Taliban leader said. "It will take time for the Taliban to appreciate that, but the message they have given to me is that they understand that they can not go back".

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Khalilzad repeatedly stressed the USA would not leave Afghanistan without enforcement mechanisms in place to ensure Afghanistan does not become a terrorist safe haven.

Former president Karzai during and his successor Ashraf Ghani had mentioned Baradar would be a force for peace and Pakistan had tried to facilitate talks between the Taliban and the U.S. by releasing him, he added. The current, US-backed Afghan government, led by President Ashraf Ghani, boycotted the event.

In the meantime, Khalilzad said the Taliban leaders may participate in future summits in the presence of Afghan government representatives.

All parties agreed to support the Doha peace talks with United States negotiators that Mr Trump on Tuesday described as "constructive".

Trump has repeatedly spoken about the need for troop withdrawal from Afghanistan, where it has been bogged down in a conflict with the Taliban and other groups since late 2001.

Mr Khalilzad on Thursday took to Twitter to deny a Taliban claim that a withdrawal timetable was in place.

Hours after the closure of Moscow talks, Afghanistan's government lodged a complaint with the United Nations over the Taliban blacklisted members travel to Russian Federation.

He added that he welcomed Moscow's role in talks.

And this can not be achieved without the help of regional players, in particular Pakistan, Special US Representative Zalmay Khalilzad said in his maiden public appearance before a Washington audience some six months after he was entrusted with this task by the Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.

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