WASHINGTON: US Special Representative Zalmay Khalilzad resumed his efforts on Wednesday to finalise a peace deal with the Taliban after a week of consultations in Washington.
“Productive week in Washington. Briefed management on where we are and next steps,” he wrote in a tweet.
“Back on the road again. First stop Doha where we will try and close on remaining issues. We’re ready. Let’s see if the Taliban are as well.”
During his stay in the United States, Mr Khalilzad also attended a meeting of security advisers and cabinet members in New Jersey where he briefed President Donald Trump on his peace mission.
The president described the meeting as “very good,” adding that “many on the opposite side of this 19-year war, and us, are looking to make a deal -- if possible”.
Envoy briefs Trump on peace mission
After the meeting, several officials told US media outlets that the United States and Taliban were close to announcing a peace agreement, which would include a schedule for initial withdrawal of American troops from Afghanistan.
On Tuesday evening, the US State Department announced that Mr Khalilzad was now returning to Doha to “resume talks with the Taliban as part of an overall effort to facilitate a peace process that ends the conflict in Afghanistan”.
In Kabul, “he will consult with the leadership of the Afghan government on the peace process and encourage full preparation for intra-Afghan negotiations,” the State Department said in a statement.
The statement added that additional travel has not been finalised yet but was possible.
In an interview to a US television network on Tuesday, Secretary of State Michael Pompeo said the US “desire is to create conditions on the ground where we can achieve what President Trump laid out, which is to reduce what is 30, 35 billion dollars a year in taxpayer money and the loss of American lives”. He said that conversations on the Afghan peace plan were going well, “but in the end, it will be about what’s delivered on the ground, whether that’s from the Afghan government, other Afghans that aren’t inside the Afghan government, the Taliban”.
In another television interview, Mr Pompeo said President Trump had given a two-point agenda to his team: “to see if we can reduce our costs” and to “ensure that we maintain a posture that can reduce the risk” of another 9/11 type attack.
“Those twin goals are what the President set out for my team and for the Department of Defence,” he added.
About withdrawing US troops from Afghanistan, he said: “Any reduction that we make will be based on conditions on the ground and will be consistent with achieving those two goals If we can reduce violence, we’ll create a space where we can withdraw not only American support, but Nato forces that are there as well,” he said.
Published in Dawn, August 22nd, 2019