A US envoy Zalmay Khalilzad has urged the Taliban in new talks to curb violence and preserve a two-month-old accord aimed at ending the war in Afghanistan, the State Department said on Wednesday.
Zalmay Khalilzad, the US negotiator who brokered the February 29 agreement with the Taliban, flew out on Tuesday to Qatar for the new meeting on a trip that will also include stops in India and Pakistan.
Khalilzad “will urge support for an immediate reduction in violence, accelerated timeline for the start of intra-Afghan negotiations, and cooperation among all sides in addressing the COVID-19 pandemic in Afghanistan,” a State Department statement said.
The US peace envoy for #Afghanistan, Zalmay Khalilzad, has met with the Taliban's deputy leader Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar in #Qatar on Wednesday and discussed the prisoner release, intra-Afghan talks and the US-Taliban peace agreement#AfghanPeaceProcess, #DevotedtoPeace pic.twitter.com/6wJTw7aiNy
— اجالے (@Ujalay_UR) May 7, 2020
Under the agreement with the Islamist fighters, the United States has started to withdraw troops from Afghanistan as part of President Donald Trump’s bid to end America’s longest war.
United States’ Khalilzad to Meet Taliban in Qatar, Visit India, Pakistan
The Taliban promised not to strike forces from the US-led coalition — but made no such pledges toward Afghan troops.
Officials have instead reported a surge in violence as the militants appear to seek to press their advantage, and efforts have stalled to launch talks between the Taliban and the internationally recognized government.
US envoy presses Taliban to curb violence in new talks: … toppled after the September 11, 2001 attacks over its refuge to Al-Qaeda. India has been among the countries most uneasy about a US withdrawal, … https://t.co/foOl7RRzgY #india #alshabab
— Ultrascan MENA (@UltrascanMENA) May 6, 2020
The US military on Saturday warned the Taliban of “responses” if the attacks do not ebb. Khalilzad has sought to ensure that major players are on board with the US diplomacy.
Pakistan has welcomed the accord. It was the chief supporter of the Taliban’s former regime, which imposed an extreme form of Islam and was toppled after the September 11, 2001 attacks over its refuge to Al-Qaeda.
India has been among the countries most uneasy about a US withdrawal, fearing that militants virulently opposed to New Delhi will be emboldened.
Th Doha Deal
The U.S.-Taliban deal called for the Taliban to release up to 1,000 government prisoners and Kabul to free up to 5,000 Taliban prisoners before peace talks that were to begin on March 10.
But a dispute over the pace and scale of the releases between the militants and the government of Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, which was not a party to the deal, helped delay the talks.
The negotiations also have been stalled by a feud between Ghani and his rival, Abdullah Abdullah, who both claimed victory in a disputed September election, and by escalating Taliban attacks.
The Taliban have mounted more than 4,500 attacks since signing the Feb. 29 deal, according to data seen by Reuters. The provinces hardest hit are ones with the most COVID-19 infections. The militants blame Kabul and the United States for the surge in violence.