Khalilzad ‘Cautiously Optimistic’ About Peace Talks

Lester Mason
November 20, 2018

Last week, a five-member Taliban delegation had attended talks in Moscow for the first time at an worldwide conference to discuss the Afghan peace efforts.

Khalilzad, chosen by US President Donald Trump's administration to hold direct talks with the Taliban, met the leaders of the hard-line Islamist group in Qatar last month to find ways to end the 17-year war in Afghanistan.

The Taliban have strengthened their grip over the past three years, with the government in Kabul controlling just 56 percent of Afghanistan, down from 72 percent in 2015, a USA government report showed this month.

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. The Taliban spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the sensitive negotiations. The releases are widely seen as a US -directed move aimed at encouraging the Taliban to participate in talks.

The two spoke on condition of anonymity as they were not authorized to talk about the discussions, reports Dhaka TribuneThey said, on Sunday, that former Taliban governor of Herat Khairullah Khairkhwa, and former Taliban military chief Mohammed Fazl both former inmates at the United States prison on Guantanamo Bay attended the talks.

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


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. According to local Tolo News, Khalilzad expressed hope of reaching a peace deal ahead of presidential elections set for next April.

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

Abdul Sattar Sirat, an ethnic Tajik and Islamic scholar, was suggested as a candidate to lead an interim administration. The five are now based in Qatar, and are seen as having enough stature to sell a peace deal to insurgents fighting on the front lines.

Addressing a gathering at the Arg (presidential palace), Afghan President Mohammad Ashraf Ghani reiterated that the advisory board would be inclusive and will advise the government on issues of national significance, including peace.

In meetings in Kabul, Khalilzad is expected to press Afghan President Ashraf Ghani to cobble together his own negotiating team, which could prove hard given the deep divisions within the government.

Other reports by Iphone Fresh

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