Zalmay Khalilzad, the government representative for Afghanistan, will meet the Taliban in Doha to try to encourage them to return to the negotiating table in order to reach a peace agreement and declare a ceasefire, something they have so far refused to do.
Khalilzad’s goal will be to discuss with the Taliban the next “steps” that could lead to negotiations between the insurgents and the government, as well as “a peaceful solution to the war, specifically a reduction of violence leading to a cease-fire,” the State Department said in a statement.
The government reported Khalilzad’s trip when the diplomat was already in the region and after former Afghan deputy foreign minister Hekmat Karzai posted photos of a meeting between the two on Twitter.
“A good meeting with Ambassador Khalilzad to discuss the latest in peace efforts. We talked about the way forward, which among other things should include a reduction in violence and zero civilian casualties,” said Karzai on Twitter, who now presides over a think-tank in Kabul.
According to the State Department, Khalilzad left Tuesday on a trip that will take him to Kabul and Doha, where the insurgent group has an office and where the latest peace talks with Washington were held.
In Kabul, in addition to meeting with Karzai, the U.S. diplomat will meet with representatives of the Afghan government and “other leaders,” the State Department said.
The purpose of that stop in Kabul will be to “follow up” on President Donald Trump’s recent visit and discuss “how best to support the accelerated efforts that seek to engage all parties in negotiations” between the Afghan executive and the Taliban.
On a surprise visit to Afghanistan last week, coinciding with the Thanksgiving holiday, Trump announced the resumption of dialogue with the Taliban, almost three months after breaking off peace negotiations with the insurgent group following an attack in Kabul.
The announcement was fraught with confusion and, subsequently, in statements to Efe, an official clarified that talks with the Taliban are not currently focused on a peace agreement for Afghanistan, but only on “reducing violence” in the Central Asian country.
On Friday, the main Taliban spokesman, Zabihullah Mujahid, told Efe in Kabul that it was “too early to talk” about a possible resumption of peace talks.