Envoy Khalilzad says faster pace needed to end conflict and loss of innocent lives
The United States and the Taliban said they made progress, but at a slow pace, as they wrapped up their latest talks which went ahead even as the insurgents bombed a U.S.-funded aid group in Kabul.
Zalmay Khalilzad, the U.S. envoy heading the effort to negotiate an end to America’s longest war, said that the sixth round of peace talks, held in the Qatari capital Doha, began to explore the “nitty gritty” of a peace plan.
“We made steady but slow progress on aspects of the framework for ending the Afghan war,” Khalilzad tweeted. “However, the current pace of talks isn’t sufficient when so much conflict rages and innocent people die. We need more and faster progress,” he said.
Khalilzad said that the United States was still hoping that the Taliban would agree to a proposal to reduce the violence.
Suhail Shaheen, the Taliban’s political spokesman in Doha, also said there had been “some progress” and added that the foes would meet again for another round of discussions. “In general, this round was positive and constructive. Both sides listened to each other with care and patience,” Shaheen wrote on Twitter.
Shaheen told AFP on Sunday that peace negotiations were stumbling over the fundamental question of when foreign forces would depart Afghanistan.
Before the U.S. agrees to any withdrawal as part of an eventual deal, it is demanding the Taliban put in place security guarantees, a ceasefire and other commitments including an “intra-Afghan” dialogue with the Kabul government and other Afghan representatives. The Taliban, however, insist they won’t do any of these things until the U.S. announces a withdrawal timeline.
At the end of a large peace summit in Kabul last week, President Ashraf Ghani offered the Taliban a ceasefire to begin on the first day of Ramzan, but the insurgents refused.
On Wednesday, a Taliban suicide bomber and four gunmen attacked Counterpart International, a non-profit group working with marginalized people in Afghanistan, killing nine people. “This violent attack is a senseless assault on the noble values that the organizations like Counterpart support, such as service to others, education, and inclusion,” U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said in a statement.