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Khalilzad calls on Kabul to form delegation for peace talks

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KABUL: As the U.S. and the Taliban inch closer toward signing a peace deal, the U.S. special representative for Afghanistan has called on Afghanistan to form an inclusive national negotiating delegation for direct talks with the militant group – all to the mirage of an ultimate reconciliation of the rebels and a lasting peace in a country which has not seen peace to itself for decades.

In a statement, the U.S. embassy in Kabul said that Khalilzad held meetings in his two-day tour to Afghanistan with Afghan leaders and emphasized the formation of a national team for direct Taliban talks.

He pinned hopes on the ongoing Doha talks which, he said, would facilitate intra-Afghan dialogue.

This comes as the Afghan government has announced the formation of a team. Najia Anwari, spokesperson for the State Ministry for Peace said that a team had been formed with all ethnic and social considerations five months ago after consecutive consultations with politicians and people.

Kabul is yet to release names of the delegation’s members, which US special envoy Zalmay Khalilzad has insisted be inclusive, representing various Afghan sides with senior government members as its members.

The Taliban, who have held at least seven rounds of talks with Khalilzad and other US diplomats since last year without any involvement of Kabul officials, have always insisted that the group would not hold direct talks with the government and that its delegates be part of a nationwide team.

Taliban spokesperson Zabihullah Mujahid said that there were some “minor details to be discussed” and that the group was hoping there would not be any obstacle in the final breakthrough.

The Taliban have been pushing for US troop withdrawal from Afghanistan and the issue has been the focus of various rounds of talks between the two sides. Taliban delegates have in the past repeatedly pressed the US to agree on setting a timetable for troop pullout.

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