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Khalilzad in Kabul to consult Afghan leaders on Taliban talks

AT News

KABUL: The US special envoy leading negotiations with the Taliban met President Ashraf Ghani in Kabul on Saturday, an official said, amid a push to reach an accord with the insurgents.

US Special Representative for Afghanistan Reconciliation Zalmay Khalilzad pointed to the status of quo of his meetings with the Taliban and Pakistani authorities.

“We are awaiting Taliban’s unequivocal response on the basis of a pragmatic mechanism for ceasefire and or a considerable and lasting reduction in violence which could gratify the Afghan nation and the U.S. government,” Khalilzad was quoted as saying.

Khalilzad has spent more than a year leading a push for a deal with the Taliban that would see the US reduce its military footprint in Afghanistan in return for security guarantees from the insurgents.

Regarding the ongoing Doha talks, Khalilzad said that there hasn’t been substantial progress in our negotiations with the Taliban. He also said he had spoken with Pakistani officials about peace efforts as well as the status of Afghan refugees there.

This is as Pakistani foreign minister Shah Mahmoud Qureshi has pinned hopes on the ongoing effort in Doha, saying that a peace deal between the United States and the Taliban would culminate into intra-Afghan talks.

The complicated peace process was further compounded after the Taliban’s spokesperson in Qatar Suhail Shaheen accused the American negotiators of proffering barriers to peace negotiations by making fresh demands.

While the US has kept Ghani apprised of developments, the Afghan president has been cut out of negotiations because the Taliban refuse to recognize his authority.

A US-Taliban deal had been all but signed in early September, but President Donald Trump scuttled the agreement at the last minute, citing concerns about ongoing Taliban violence including a Kabul bombing that killed an American soldier.

Talks resumed December 7 amid a reduction in violence in Kabul but were paused following another Taliban attack, this time at Bagram air base north of Kabul.

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