United States envoy in Taleban talks seeks peace deal before July vote

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United States envoy in Taleban talks seeks peace deal before July vote

Pakistan, he said, favours inter-Afghan dialogue including between the Taliban and the government.

Former president Karzai during and his successor Ashraf Ghani had mentioned Baradar would be a force for peace and Pakistan had tried to facilitate talks between the Taliban and the U.S. by releasing him, he added.

The military strategy, devised by General Austin Miller, the current commander of the American-led mission in Afghanistan, is similar to past attempts to bleed the militant group, the report said.

In recent months, President Donald Trump has suggested withdrawing almost half of the American forces in Afghanistan, but US officials have said he has thus far resisted that urge, largely in an effort to back Khalilzad's negotiations.

Khalilzad repeatedly stressed the U.S. would not leave Afghanistan without enforcement mechanisms in place to ensure Afghanistan does not become a terrorist safe haven.

It would be better for Afghanistan to have a peace agreement before the presidential elections scheduled for July 20, according to the top USA envoy for Afghanistan.

Khalilzad last week announced a "draft framework" for a peace deal, though he warned that major hurdles remain. Even if the troop withdrawal and Taliban assurances on denying haven to extremist groups were fully settled, a peace agreement would not be completed until numerous other issues such as political participation are decided, he said.

The envoy, who is a former USA ambassador to Kabul, also called for direct talks to begin as soon as possible between the Taliban and the Afghan government, which thus far has not been involved in Khalilzad's talks.

US troops invaded Afghanistan in October 2001 and toppled the Taliban government within weeks.

Mujahid added that the Taliban believe that as long as Afghanistan is occupied, ceasefires and intra-Afghan talks would not amount to much.

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 difference he witnessed in Doha was the realisation that this approach would not work, he said, adding that all sides, including the Taliban, were now willing to accommodate each other.

The government has criticised the talks from the beginning, by saying that the talks hosted by Russian Federation were against the spirit of Afghan-led and owned peace process.

"They (the Taliban) say they made a mistake in how they dealt with women the last time", Khalilzad said.

They "called for the protection of freedom of speech in line with Islamic principles, and to undertake efforts to attract worldwide assistance for the reconstruction of Afghanistan's infrastructure".

Khalilzad said he has pressed the Taliban to agree to a permanent cease-fire as a step toward ending the war, but they have resisted, arguing that it would remove their leverage and reduce the Afghan government's incentive to make concessions in direct negotiations.

"They've facilitated some movement and travel to the discussions in Doha", the official said.

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