The Afghan Taliban of on Wednesday announced that they will be meeting US envoys this month in Pakistan’s capital Islamabad for talks. They also said that they would be meeting Prime Minister Imran Khan and discuss Afghanistan, reported the AFP.
The announcement, not immediately confirmed by Washington or Islamabad, comes as America’s chief negotiator tours the globe shoring up support for a peace process to end its longest war.
Zalmay Khalilzad, a former ambassador to Afghanistan, held extensive talks with the militants last month in Qatar, where the Taliban have an office. More talks are slated for later in February.
But a Taliban statement issued on Wednesday said separate meetings would be held first on February 18 in Islamabad “by the formal invitation of the government of Pakistan”.
Talks in Doha would follow a week later on February 25, the statement said.
Khalilzad is heading a large delegation on a tour of Belgium, Germany, Turkey, Qatar, Afghanistan and Pakistan to boost the peace process and bring all Afghan parties to the table.
He has expressed cautious hope for a deal before Afghan presidential elections slated for July, but says the Taliban must come to the table with the Kabul government, which the insurgents consider a US puppet.
Recently, Afghanistan President Ashraf Ghani said the Afghan government is ready to allow the Taliban to open an office in Kabul, Kandahar or Nangarhar.
He stated that he will sacrifice his own life for “a sustainable peace and a peace with dignity” that will eventually come to the country.
Recently, Taliban had appointed co-founder Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar as the leader of their political office in Qatar to lead talks with the United States to end the Afghan war.
The Taliban had issued a statement to announce Baradar’s appointment and a reshuffle in their team to put senior leaders into key positions as the talks with US officials gain momentum.
Meanwhile, Khalilzad said the United States is hoping they can strike a peace deal before the presidential elections in Afghanistan scheduled for July.
“It will be better for Afghanistan if we could get a peace agreement before the election, which is scheduled in July,” Khalilzad said, adding that there remained “a lot of work” to do.
“We are after a peace agreement, not a withdrawal agreement. A peace agreement can allow withdrawal,” Khalilzad said.
He added that “elections make the peace agreement more complicated”.