Trump's Afghan envoy intensifies peace efforts with Taliban

  • Trump's Afghan envoy intensifies peace efforts with Taliban

Trump's Afghan envoy intensifies peace efforts with Taliban

US Special Representative for Afghanistan Reconciliation Zalmay Khalilzad left Washington on Sunday on yet another peace mission that includes talks in Afghanistan, Pakistan and Qatar. He said the U.S.is not seeking permanent military bases in Afghanistan and will leave if Kabul does not want US troops there, provided that there is no threat to USA national security from Afghanistan, particularly from terrorist groups.

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani on Sunday offered the Taliban the possibility of opening an office in Afghanistan but the proposal was swiftly spurned by the group that is determined to keep his government out of accelerating peace talks.

The emphasis on bringing "all Afghan parties together" appeared crucial.

The US envoy has in recent months met several times with Taliban officials in Qatar, where the group's leaders have an office in the capital Doha.

Although the Afghan government was kept out of the Moscow talks held last week, an official from Afghanistan's High Peace Council said that some parts of the Moscow resolution would be added to their agenda.

Khalilzad told an audience at the U.S. Institute of Peace on Friday that he hopes a final deal can be clinched before Afghanistan's presidential election in July.

Some 14,000 USA troops are based in Afghanistan as part of a US -led North Atlantic Treaty Organisation mission to train, assist and advise Afghan forces. But Khalilzad emphasised that any troop withdrawal would depend on conditions on the ground. The correspondence came after Trump accused Pakistan of "doing nothing" despite receiving "billions of dollars" in aid.

Afghan officials were treated to a surprise visit by the acting US Secretary of Defense, Patrick Shanahan, who arrived unannounced, apparently to discuss peace talks and the prospects for American military presence in the region.

After almost 18 years of US-led war in Afghanistan, the acting Pentagon chief, who temporarily took over after James Mattis resigned over Trump's decision to pull out of Syria, said that Afghanis must decide they future on "their own" - including how to deal with the Taliban.

He reinforced United States support for the Kabul government before touching down in the Afghan capital. "The Afghans have to decide what Afghanistan looks like in the future".

Shanahan will meet General Scott Miller, the top USA and North Atlantic Treaty Organisation commander in Afghanistan, during his visit.

The US is expected to resume talks with Taliban officials in Doha, where the insurgents have their political office, on February 25.