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America's Afghan peace envoy makes surprise stop in Kabul

AP  |  Kabul 

America's special peace envoy Zalmay Khalilzad was in the Afghan capital "to discuss the latest in peace efforts, a former Afghan deputy foreign minister said on Wednesday.

Hekmat Karzai, chairman of the Kabul-based Center for Conflict and Peace Studies, tweeted photographs of his meeting Wednesday with Khalilzad in Kabul, saying they spoke about the way forward."

A Taliban official said the group has held informal talks with the Americans, without specifying where or who participated. He spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss the talks.

Khalilzad's visit comes just days after President Donald Trump visited US troops in Afghanistan for the Thanksgiving holiday, when he hinted at a resumption of peace talks with the Taliban.

Trump said the US and Taliban have been engaged in peace talks and insisted the Taliban want to make a deal after heavy US fire in recent months.

The Taliban official said the US has been pressing for a cease-fire, even a temporary one during the time of an agreement signing. While there has been no formal announcement of a reduction in violence, Taliban attacks at least in the cities appear to have decreased in recent weeks.

The Taliban quickly denied responsibility for Wednesday's shooting that killed Japanese Dr. Tetsu Nakamura, as well as five Afghans, including the doctor's bodyguards, the driver and a passenger.

Last month, Taliban officials in southern Zabul province announced an unofficial cease-fire in three districts of the province, which they mostly control. The announcement came with the release of hostages Kevin King, and American, and Australian Timothy Weeks in exchange for senior Taliban leaders, including Anas Haqqani.

Still, the Taliban have rejected an all out cease-fire and have continued to conduct near daily attacks around the country against Afghan National Security Forces. US and Afghan forces also have continued their assault on Taliban, according to daily activity reports from the U.S. military in Afghanistan.

Earlier, Suhail Shaheen, Taliban spokesman in the Qatar capital of Doha, where the Taliban maintain a political office, said the agreement, which Trump declared dead in September after a surge in violence killed a US soldier, called for an immediate cease-fire with US and NATO troops.

The agreement also called for an intra-Afghan dialogue to begin within 10 days of the signing. The first item on the agenda was to be a cease-fire.

American officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the talks, said the goal is to get to intra-Afghan negotiations. In these negotiations, Afghans from Taliban to government representatives to prominent Afghans, including women will decide the road map for a post-war Afghanistan.

The negotiations aren't expected to be smooth and will include a number of thorny issues from constitutional reform to the fate of armed militias, Taliban fighters, local police and national security forces.

Khalilzad, who is also expected to travel to Doha, tweeted earlier Wednesday that a recent military campaign targeting the Islamic State group was an example of an "effective operations by U.S./Coalition & Afghan forces as well as the Taliban."

In recent days, President Ashraf Ghani said the Islamic State affiliate has been routed from its strongholds in eastern Nangarhar province.

(This story has not been edited by Business Standard staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)

First Published: Wed, December 04 2019. 21:10 IST