Palace statement says Kabul must lead dialogue between Afghan government and the Taliban
The United States and Afghanistan stressed the need for “intra-Afghan dialogue” when U.S. envoy Zalmay Khalilzad and Afghan President Ashraf Ghani held talks on Saturday, a palace statement said.
Their meeting came during a marathon multi-country tour by Khalilzad, who is to visit Qatar—the usual venue for talks with the Taliban. “Dr. Khalilzad briefed the president and other government officials about his trips and future plans for peace,” a palace statement said. “Both sides once again emphasized an intra-Afghan dialogue between the Afghan government and the Taliban, led by the Afghan government.”
U.S. President Donald Trump is eager to reach a solution to end his country’s longest-ever war, which dislodged the Taliban following the September 11, 2001 attacks on the United States.
Before Khalilzad embarked on his tour, the State Department said that in Doha, the Qatari capital, he will “press forward on negotiations with the Taliban to reach a consensus on core national security issues, and urge their participation in an inclusive intra-Afghan dialogue.”
Despite several rounds of talks with Khalilzad, the Taliban have refused to negotiate with Ghani’s internationally recognized government.
Hopes for a breakthrough earlier in April were dashed when a dialogue planned between the Taliban and Afghan officials in Doha collapsed at the last minute.
On Friday the U.S. found backing from rivals Russia and China on the key formula of the peace deal it is negotiating in Afghanistan—withdrawing troops in return for Taliban pledges not to welcome foreign extremists.
After Khalilzad met Russian and Chinese representatives in Moscow, he described the consensus as a “milestone.” A joint statement by the three countries called for an “inclusive Afghan-led” peace process and outlined points expected to feature in an eventual agreement.
On Monday, Afghanistan convenes a rare “loya jirga,” where more than 2,000 people from across the country have been invited to discuss the war and U.S. efforts to forge a peace deal with the Taliban.