Khalilzad eyes peace agreement with Taliban before presidential elections

Ex-Guantanamo prisoners to end war? US envoy predicts peace deal after talks with Taliban delegates

Reuters Omar Sobhani

In the three months following Pompeo's visit, the Taliban demonstrated their resilience even as the US military continued its focus on training and advising the Afghan army and police while helping develop an Afghan air force.

Without referring explicitly to the talks in Qatar, Khalilzad told a news conference Sunday in Kabul, "I am talking to all interested parties, all Afghan groups. and I think there is an opportunity for reconciliation and peace".

On November 17, U.S. General Joseph Dunford, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said the Taliban, which controls more territory than any time since the U.S. -led invasion in 2001, is "not losing" and there is no "military solution" to ending the war.

Peace efforts have accelerated since Khalilzad's appointment as Washington's peace envoy to Afghanistan aimed at eventually winding down America's longest war.

The U.S. State Department has refused to comment on reported talks between U.S. officials and the Taliban.

"The Afghan government wants peace", the USA envoy also said.

On November 9, India sent its two retired diplomats - TCA Raghavan, a former envoy to Pakistan, and Amar Sinha, a former ambassador to Afghanistan at the "non-official level" for meeting with Russian Federation and Taliban representatives.

The former USA ambassador to Kabul has been spearheading American efforts to convince the Taliban to negotiate with the Afghan government.

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The U.S. administration now appears focused on reaching a political settlement with the Taliban, and has given in to a number of the group's longstanding demands, beginning with the holding of direct talks.

He said the USA believes the Taliban knows "that "at some point" it has to reconcile". According to local Tolo News, Khalilzad expressed hope of reaching a peace deal ahead of presidential elections set for next April.

FILE - In this January 5, 2009 file photo, then-U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Zalmay Khalilzad, speaks to reporters at the United Nations headquarters.

The meetings to discuss the advisory board for the peace process and formation of a negotiating team with Taliban started last week, and will continue for several days to come.

Khalilzad returned to Kabul on Saturday after a meeting with the Afghan officials, and the officials of United Arab Emirates and Saudi in Abu Dhabi.

In a recent report, the US Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR) cited the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation mission in Kabul as saying this summer's toll had been worse than ever for Afghan forces. Both were former inmates at the U.S. prison in Guantanamo Bay.

A third individual with knowledge of the discussions said the Taliban pressed for a postponement of next year's presidential elections and the establishment of an interim government under a neutral leadership.

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