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AFP
March 7, 2021

Khalilzad, Mullah Baradar meet in Doha

Top Story

AFP
March 7, 2021

DOHA: Washington’s special envoy to Afghanistan met with the Taliban in Qatar, the insurgents said Saturday, as efforts intensify to revive a peace process faced with mounting violence and a US troop withdrawal deadline, foreign media reported.

The envoy, Zalmay Khalilzad, held talks earlier this week with Afghan leaders in Kabul, including President Ashraf Ghani and Abdullah Abdullah, chair of Afghanistan´s High Council for National Reconciliation which oversees the government’s talks with the insurgents in Qatar.

Taliban spokesman Muhamad Naeem tweeted that Khalilzad and the top US general in Afghanistan met with the insurgents’ negotiating team in Doha, including Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, late Friday.

"Both sides expressed their commitment to the Doha agreement and discussed its full implementation. Likewise, the current situation of Afghanistan and the rapidity and effectiveness of the Intra-Afghan negotiations were discussed,” he wrote.

Speculation is rife over America’s future in Afghanistan, after the White House announced plans to review a withdrawal deal brokered by Khalilzad and the Taliban in Doha last year.

Under that agreement, the US is set to withdraw from Afghanistan in May, but a surge in fighting has sparked concerns that a speedy exit may unleash greater chaos as peace talks between the Kabul government and Taliban continue to stall.

The accord states that the US will withdraw all troops from Afghanistan, with the Taliban promising not to allow territory to be used by terrorists -- the original goal of the US invasion following the September 11, 2001 attacks.

Khalilzad’s visit marks the first time he has publicly returned to Qatar since US President Joe Biden took office in January and asked him to stay on in his post.

Meanwhile, Afghan President Ashraf Ghani said on Saturday, in a bid to push forward peace talks with the Taliban, that his government was ready to discuss holding fresh elections, insisting that any new government should emerge through the democratic process.

“Transfer of power through elections is a non-negotiable principle for us,” Ghani told lawmakers at the opening of parliament session in Kabul.

“We stand ready to discuss holding free, fair and inclusive elections under the auspices of international community. We can also talk about the date of the elections and reach a conclusion.

President Ghani met US special envoy to Afghanistan Zalmay Khalilzad in Kabul during the past week to discuss ways to inject momentum in the stalled peace negotiations with Taliban representatives being held in Qatar. After his talks in Kabul, Khalilzad went to Qatar.

US President Joe Biden’s administration has begun a review of its strategy for Aghanistan, including an agreement reached with the Taliban in early 2020 that paved the way for talks between the insurgents and the Afghan government.

Afghan officials and western diplomats said that during his visit to Kabul Khalilzad had floated the idea of establishing an interim government after bringing Afghan leaders and Taliban leaders together for a multilateral conference outside the country.