Zalmay Khalilzad speaks on the prospects for peace at the US Institute of Peace, in Washington. File photo/ AP
Washington’s Afghan peace envoy remained in Pakistan on Tuesday as part of efforts to find a negotiated end to Afghanistan’s 18 -year war, even though President Donald Trump hasn’t expressed any interest in resuming talks with the Taliban.
The envoy, Zalmay Khalilzad, met with Pakistan’s Prime Minister Imran Khan on Monday and was expected to hold talks with the country’s powerful military army chief on Tuesday.
Officials in Pakistan, where the Taliban’s governing council is believed to be headquartered, has been pushing for a resumption of direct US-Taliban talks since they collapsed in early September after Trump declared a deal that seemed imminent dead. Trump’s declaration followed a series of violent attacks in the Afghan capital that killed several people, including a US soldier.
During their meeting on Monday, Khan called on all sides in Afghanistan’s protracted war to reduce the violence.
Civilian casualties have been rising fast in recent months, according to the United Nations which blames both insurgents and US and Afghan government security forces. So far this year there have been more than 8,000 casualties.
For the first time the United Nations reported earlier this year that US and Afghan security forces killed more civilians than insurgents.
Khan said in a statement that it was “important for all sides to take practical steps for the reduction of violence in Afghanistan.”
The Taliban’s political spokesman Suhail Shaheen said on Saturday that if the United States signs the agreement Trump declared dead there will be a cease-fire first with US and NATO troops followed by a negotiated cease-fire with Afghan Security Forces.
“If the US returns to the negotiation table and signs the agreement then there will be a cease-fire and reduction of violence,” Shaheen said.
Khalilzad arrived in Pakistan from Afghanistan, where he met with leaders including President Ashraf Ghani, who has mostly dismissed any talks not led by his government.
But Afghanistan’s leadership has just come out of a presidential election that has been marred by allegations of corruption and fraud and nearly a month after Afghans went to the polls, in seemingly low numbers, no results have been released. Preliminary results are now expected on Nov.14.
Ghani and his current partner in a so-called unity government, Abdullah Abddullah, are the leading contenders for president. The two men jointly lead Afghanistan’s unity government cobbled together by the US after the 2014 presidential elections were so deeply flawed a clear winner could not be determined.
Before his stop in Afghanistan, Khalilzad was in Moscow meeting with Chinese and Russian representatives as well as holding yet another meeting with Pakistani officials.
Following that meeting a statement was released calling for all sides to reduce violence and get back to talking about finding a peaceful end to a devastatingly long war.
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