Envoy intensifies peace efforts
WASHING TON» The Trump administration’s special envoy for Afghanistan is returning to the country after stops in Europe and the Middle East for an extended diplomatic tour aimed at pushing a U.S. peace initiative.
The State Department said in a statement Sunday that Special Representative for Afghan Reconciliation Zalmay Khalilzad would spend the rest of February traveling to Belgium, Germany, Turkey, Qatar, Afghanistan and Pakistan.
It said the trip is intended “to facilitate a peace process that protects U.S. national security interests and brings all Afghan parties together in an intraAfghan dialogue through which they can determine a path for their country’s future.”
Khalilzad recently finished a similar trip during which his talks with the Taliban produced a tentative framework agreement, but he warned last week that the negotiations are far from finished.
Khalilzad told an audience at the U.S. Institute of Peace on Friday that he hopes a final deal can be clinched before Afghanistan’s presidential election in July. He stressed, however that many issues remain to be resolved and that it must be a package deal. “We are in the early stage of a protracted process,” he said. “We have a long way to go.”
The former U.S. ambassador to Kabul also called for direct talks to begin as soon as possible between the Taliban and the Afghan government, which thus far has not been involved in Khalilzad’s talks. So far, though, he noted that the Taliban have been unwilling to take this step, arguing that the government is illegitimate.
The U.S. has about 14,000 troops in Afghanistan.