Published: Mon, February 11, 2019
Worldwide | By Jermaine Blake

Despite talks, not yet reached any conclusion to end hostilities: Af Taliban

Despite talks, not yet reached any conclusion to end hostilities: Af Taliban

Khalilzad, who returned to the United States from nearly a month-long peace mission to South Asia and the Middle East, said on Friday that he had discussed conditions for the withdrawal of American forces from Afghanistan with the Taliban, but there had been no agreement on this issue yet, Dawn news reported. "What we've achieved so far is significant, but they are two or three small steps in a long journey".

For the US, the priority was securing a commitment from the Taliban that it would never again allow a terrorist group to use Afghanistan as a staging ground to attack the USA or its allies, and an agreement in principle was reached on that issue.

"They (Taliban) say they have learned from their mistakes of the past", Zalmay Khalilzad, the American special envoy who is leading the talks, said in a speech on Friday in Washington.

Led by Taliban's chief negotiator Mohammad Abbas Stanikzai, ten senior officials from the group this week travelled to Moscow for talks with Afghan politicians.

As the United States hopes to reach a peace agreement with the Taliban before the Afghan elections in July, PPP chairman Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari has urged Pakistan to be ready to protect its interests in the region.

Islamabad, running short of foreign exchange reserves and in talks with the International Monetary Fund over what would be its 13th bailout since the 1980s, says it can not afford to see Afghanistan slide into chaos just as Pakistan is trying to attract foreign investors to shore up its own economy.

Khalilzad is seeking an agreement in which Taliban would negotiate in good faith with the Afghan government and commit to ending any terrorism threat within the country.

"The timing of a peace settlement from our point of view is the sooner is better", Khalilzad told an audience at the US Institute of Peace in Washington.

Khalilzad was a major player in George W. Bush's administration when the United States first invaded Afghanistan after the 9/11 attacks.

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"I think the message that I have here is a peace in Afghanistan will help our relations with Pakistan", he added.

Additionally, the Taliban have promised not to provide shelter again to foreign extremists, but experts say they can not be trusted and even now are helping to hide foreign militants.

He said that he sees himself as a "catalyst" to find a formula for Afghans to sit down with each other and work out a roadmap for a peaceful future.

Some at the Moscow meeting demanded the formation of an interim government to replace Ghani instead of holding presidential elections in July.

The US can not be a substitute for decisions that they must make.

Trump has repeatedly spoken about the need for troop withdrawal from Afghanistan, where it has been bogged down in a conflict with the Taliban and other groups since late 2001.

Pakistan had not played a positive role historically with regard to the Afghan peace process, but with the release of Baradar, it had shown a positive change in its approach, Khalilzad remarked.

"But we don't have to wait until then for regional players to play a positive role".

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