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Khalilzad in Kabul to shake up peace efforts

By Rafiullah Anwari

KABUL: The U.S. appointed man for Afghan reconciliation, Zalmay Khalilzad arrived in Kabul on Sunday to push for peace efforts as the negotiations between the Afghan government and Taliban hit walls.

Khalilzad was accompanied by an U.S. inter-agency delegation, including the National Security Council, Department of Defense, and USAID, according to a statement of the U.S. Department of State.

His visit to Kabul is to come as dispute among the Afghan leaders has fractured the political system giving the militants a strong hand to put more pressure on the government. As the U.S. and NATO Forces are exiting- with the Taliban escalating attacks and overrunning several districts across the country- the unabated high level of violence sparks fears of a possible collapse of the current system.

The Presidential Palace said that Khalilzad held talks with President Ashraf Ghani, discussing the peace process and the new chapter of relations between Kabul and Washington.

“Both sides discussed cooperation and continuation of political, diplomatic, security and defense and economical relations,” Ghani’s office said in a statement on Sunday. 

After his meeting with Ghani, the U.S. special envoy for Afghanistan reconciliation met Abdullah Abdullah, chairmen of the high council for national reconciliation.

Abdullah’s office said in a statement that Khalilzad reiterated U.S. support in countering terrorism, supporting the Afghan National Defense and Security Forces and providing economical aids. Khalilzad said that Washington “decisively” supported the Afghan peace process and work on “formation of regional and international consensus for peace,” the statement added. .

The state of the U.S. State Department said Khalilzad and his accompanied “delegation will underscore enduring U.S. support for Afghanistan’s development and a political settlement that will end the war.”

According to the statement, he would also encourage the Afghan negotiating team and the Taliban delegation to “make tangible progress” towards a political settlement that the achievements gained in the past 20 years.

“Ambassador Khalilzad will also meet with leaders from regional countries to discuss the Afghanistan peace process and the potential for increased regional trade, commerce, and development that peace might bring,” the statement added.

The U.S. and Taliban signed a peace deal in February 2020 that laid out the withdrawal of U.S. troops and release of over 5,000 Taliban prisoners held in the government’s custody. The deal also stipulated the Taliban to cut ties with al-Qaeda terrorist network and reduce the level of violence. 

However, the UN Security Council in a recent report said that the relations between the Taliban and al-Qaeda remained close and that the emboldened group of the Taliban is posing severe and expansion challenges to the Afghan government. “Both deputy leaders of the Taliban, Mullah Mohammad Yaqub Omari and Sirajuddin Haqqani are reported Member States to oppose peace talks and favor military solution,” UN’s report added.

The Taliban on Sunday conducted three car bombings in various provinces of Afghanistan. The militants also overrun Qaisar district in the northern province of Faryab. The district police chief is purportedly killed alongside his comrades.

10 security forces were killed in a car bombing attack carried out by the Taliban on Shahrak district of western Ghor province.

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