Published: Mon, February 11, 2019
Worldwide | By Myra Stephens

USA envoy in Taleban talks seeks peace deal before July vote

USA envoy in Taleban talks seeks peace deal before July vote

United States negotiator Zalmay Khalilzad commented on the Afghanistan negotiations on Friday, saying he believes "the sooner the better" on such a deal, and that it is his hope that a deal could be reached before the July presidential election in Afghanistan.

By hosting a meeting between the Taliban and other Afghan delegates, Moscow has greatly contributed to a peace process in Afghanistan, ex-President Hamid Karzai said, denouncing years of "failed" USA military presence and policies.

For the US, the priority was securing a commitment from the Taliban that it would never again allow a terrorist group to use Afghanistan as a staging ground to attack the USA or its allies, and an agreement in principle was reached on that issue. "We have a long way to go".

Khalilzad said he has pressed the Taliban to agree to a permanent cease-fire as a step toward ending the war, but they have resisted, arguing that it would remove their leverage and reduce the Afghan government's incentive to make concessions in direct negotiations.

Pakistan was now supportive of an intra-Afghan dialogue, including talks between the Taliban and the government, he acknowledged. A small percentage of the USA force there is focused on targeting terrorist groups - namely al-Qaida and Islamic State forces that the Pentagon has said remain a threat. The current, US-backed Afghan government, led by President Ashraf Ghani, boycotted the event.

"We are in the early stage of a protracted process", he said.

U.S. President Donald Trump has repeatedly signaled his intention to wind down America's longest conflict, declaring Tuesday in his State of the Union address that "great nations do not fight endless wars".

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 USA by releasing him, he added.

The sides agreed on an assurance to the global community that Afghanistan would not be used as a terror base against any other nation, and that women had the right to education and work in line with Islamic principles.

Khalilzad said Friday that he agreed with Trump's assessment, stating Taliban officials have expressed their desire to end the fighting to him, but in exchange they seek "legitimacy". "We have already realized that it is just impossible", he told Sputnik. In exchange, Khalilzad said some or all American forces would leave the country.

There were six days of peace talks in Doha - where Hanafi said the timetable had been set - but there have also been talks elsewhere as the insurgents meet top officials from Asia, Europe and beyond to reach a political settlement aimed at ending the war.

While the US talks with the Taliban have focused on troop presence and assurances that terrorist networks would not be given haven, Khalilzad said intra-Afghan talks could also deal with human rights, freedom of the press and the role of women, who were harshly oppressed under Taliban rule. He added: "Nothing is agreed to until everything is agreed to". Some of them also warned that the current Afghan government would not have enough support to stay in power without a United States military presence. He said he hopes that could come soon. The ex-president also said he would like to see all foreign troops withdrawing from his country "as soon as possible", even though he admitted that it would likely be a "very hard process". "I am hopeful. I think the suffering of the last 40 years has brought with it a wisdom to these various groups".

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