By: The Kabul Times
KABUL: A senior U.S. envoy left for Doha and Kabul on Sunday to press Taliban and the Afghan government officials to open peace talks that the United States hopes will allow it to withdraw from Afghanistan, the U.S. State Department said.
Zalmay Khalilzad, the U.S. special representative for Afghanistan, left one day after President Ghani and his rival Dr. Abdullah Abdullah signed a deal that could help lead to peace talks to end the country’s long-running war.
While in Doha, Khalilzad met with Taliban officials to discuss carrying out a February 29 U.S.-Taliban agreement that called for prisoner releases by both sides and to “press for steps necessary to commence intra-Afghan negotiations, including a significant reduction of violence.
In Kabul, Khalilzad will meet with senior government officials “to explore steps the Afghan government needs to take to make intra-Afghan negotiations begin as soon as possible,” it added.
The three main impediments to the start of intra-Afghan negotiations, which were to begin March 10, have been a rise in violence, the pace of prisoner releases and the political deadlock.
A set of brutal attacks in Afghanistan on May 12 has thrown the very idea of a peace process into question. Many are asking whether that process is dead before it ever got underway.
The number of people who were killed in a militant attack on a maternity ward in the Afghan capital has risen to 24, the health ministry said after the attack.
In a second incident that day, a suicide bomber killed at least 32 people at a funeral in Nangarhar Province, in the east of the country.
The Afghan security officials blamed Taliban for the recent brutal attacks.
Meanwhile, the Taliban claimed a deadly attack on an Afghan intelligence agency post Monday, even as they urged the Afghan government to accelerate a prisoner swap to pave the way for talks.