Peace Deal Crucial Before Elections: High Peace Council

Nellie Chapman
November 20, 2018

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".

Then Afghan President Hamid Karzai subsequently halted peace efforts, saying the office in Doha was presenting itself as an unofficial embassy for a government-in-exile.

But Khalilzad's public statement that the Taliban believe they will "not win militarily" angered senior members of the group, who warned US officials against mixed messages that could muddle the peace process.

Up to 30 militants have been confirmed dead as the government forces stormed Taliban hideouts in Khogiani district of the eastern Nangarhar province on Friday night, a statement of the provincial government released here Saturday said.

As part of the administration's strategy to bring about a political resolution to the 17-year war, President Donald Trump announced an increase in U.S. troops last year that brought the total number in the country to about 14,000.

The insurgents, fighting to expel foreign forces and defeat the Western-backed Afghan government, last month presented demands to Khalilzad that included a timeline for the withdrawal of U.S. troops and the release of senior Taliban from jails.

Pakistan has meanwhile released a number of high-level Taliban prisoners, including the movement's cofounder, Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar.

He said the US believes the Taliban knows "that "at some point" it has to reconcile".

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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.

Monday's report, which was a combined assessment by inspectors general of the Pentagon, the State Department and the U.S. Agency for International Development, said available measures of security in Afghanistan showed little change in the July-September quarter.

Khalilzad was in the Afghan capital after a second round of regional meetings with top government officials to coordinate efforts on ending the 17-year war.

The Associated Press reports that high-ranking members of the Taliban have held three days of talks in Qatar with the USA peace envoy for Afghanistan, Zalmay Khalilzad. What that roadmap will look like and what rights and guarantees it will enshrine, including women's rights and rule of law, will be a decision for Afghans to make, said Khalilzad.

Another senior member said Khalilzad's strategy to declare a deadline showed how desperate the United States was to withdraw foreign forces.

On recent elections in Afghanistan, Dunford claimed that the election has concluded successfully, and noted the importance of presidential election due next year. The Associated Press reported on Sunday that Khalilzad held three days of talks with the Taliban in the Gulf state of Qatar. They spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the negotiations.

Taliban during the talks allegedly 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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