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Khalilzad poised to confer on violence reduction with Taliban

AT News

KABUL: US Special Representative for Afghanistan, Zalmay Khalilzad, is going to visit Doha later this week, where he will hold talks with Qatar-based Taliban members to check whether the group is ready to reduce violence in Afghanistan, a media report said on Friday.

The visit will also clear the fate of peace talks that has been paused for three weeks.

An official at the American Embassy in Kabul, who requested not to be identified, made the disclosure Thursday, nearly three weeks after Khalilzad paused the dialogue as retaliation to a major Taliban attack on the largest U.S. military base north of the Afghan capital, the Voice of America reported.

The US embassy official, while referring to recent Taliban statements, noted the Taliban leadership has debated the issue in internal deliberations, and Khalilzad wants to learn the outcome at the upcoming meeting.  

In his last interaction with insurgent negotiators in Doha on December 12, the Afghan-born US envoy had asked them “to consult their leadership” about observing a temporary cease-fire, or a reduction in violence, before the two sides could return to the negotiating table.

Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid earlier this week confirmed its leaders have conducted internal consultations, saying they focused solely on a US request for easing “the scale and intensity of violence” against foreign troops.  

Recently John Bass, the US ambassador to Afghanistan, in an interview with TOLONews said that the US is not insisting on a nationwide ceasefire with the Taliban at this point. “It depends on the Taliban. I mean, we are not insisting at this point that that there has to be a nationwide ceasefire before anything can happen,” said Bass. The ambassador continued:  “Obviously, a wide cross section of the Islamic Republic continues to signal that a ceasefire is very important before intra-Afghan negotiations would begin, but we think it’s important that before we would resume our discussions with the Taliban, that they signal, not just to us, but more importantly to their fellow Afghans–who are the people who are dying in this conflict– that they, the Taliban, are prepared to act differently and to choose a different future course.”

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