US seeking peace agreement in Afghanistan: Khalilzad

US Afghan envoy Zalmay Khalilzad wants peace deal before July vote

In his speech at the US Institute for Peace (USIP) on Friday afternoon, Mr Bhutto-Zardari noted that President Donald Trump's recent tweets and statements on Afghanistan indicated Washington's desire to leave the war-torn country.

For the US, the priority was securing a commitment from the Taliban that it would never again allow a terrorist group to use Afghanistan as a staging ground to attack the USA or its allies, and an agreement in principle was reached on that issue.

Getting American troops out of Afghanistan, where they have been either fighting the Taliban or advising Afghan government forces since October 2001, is the top priority for the Taliban officials he has talked with, Khalilzad said.

The United States boasts a roughly 14,000-troop force in Afghanistan largely working to train and advise the government's security forces as they battle the Taliban for population control in a war long characterized by top USA military and Afghan officials as a stalemate.

Pakistan too has said that last month's talks between the United States and the Taliban were a "major diplomatic victory" for all sides.

"We're willing to help them agree on this", Kabulov said. But it is not just a withdrawal agreement that we are seeking. "A peace agreement can allow withdrawal", Khalilzad said.

A senior Taliban official said Wednesday that the United States has proposed to withdraw half of its troops from Afghanistan by the end of April, but the USA military said it has received no orders to begin packing up.

Mr Khalilzad, who acknowledged that Pakistan had released a senior Taliban leader Mullah Baradar on his request to facilitate the peace talks, said that Pakistan could play a very crucial in the reconciliation process with the Taliban.

He also served as the US Ambassadors to Afghanistan and Iraq during the Bush Administration.

The Afghan Taliban has said that despite the ongoing talks with the U.S. and other regional powers, it had "not yet reached" any conclusion that would entail an immediate end to hostilities against America and its allies, according to a media report.

Additionally, the Taliban have promised not to shelter foreign extremists, but experts say they can not be trusted and even now are helping to hide such militants. "The Afghans must sit across the table with each other and come to an agreement about the future of their country", he said.

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

The US can not be a substitute for decisions that they must make.

Afghanistan has suffered almost constant conflict since the Soviet invasion of 1979, which was followed by civil war, the Taliban regime, and the United States invasion in late 2001.

He said that there is time to make a final deal before Afghanistan's presidential election in July.

In contrast, his assessment of the 18-year US-led military campaign in Afghanistan was far less positive.

Pakistan had not played a positive role historically with regard to the Afghan peace process, but with the release of Baradar, it had shown a positive change in its approach, Khalilzad remarked.



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