U.S. special envoy resumes Afghan peace diplomacy

US Special Envoy Zalmay Khalilzad is leading a six nation tour to boost the peace process in Afghanistan the State Department says

US Special Envoy Zalmay Khalilzad is leading a six nation tour to boost the peace process in Afghanistan the State Department says

Since being appointed last September as the USA special representative for Afghan reconciliation, Zalmay Khalilzad has carried out a number of rounds of talks with the Taliban and other regional representatives in Afghanistan, Pakistan, the United Arab Emirates, India, Russia, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, Saudi Arabia, and Qatar.

"Our demand about having an official political office is clear, we want that our office in Doha is recognized by the worldwide community and the United Nations", Shahin said.

The State Department said the trip "is part of an overall effort to facilitate a peace process that protects U.S. national security interests and brings all Afghan parties together in an intra-Afghan dialogue through which they can determine a path for their country's future".

Also on Sunday, Afghan President Ashraf Ghani said the Taliban were welcome to open an office in Kabul, Kandahar or Nangarhar to continue the peace talks that have so far been held in Doha, Qatar.

Khalilzad told an audience at the U.S. Institute of Peace on Friday that he hopes a final deal can be clinched before Afghanistan's presidential election in July.

He acknowledged that Pakistan had remained "the most important hub" for Afghan refugees during the Soviet invasion.

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If the Taliban were hold talks with the Kabul government, it would mean that it had "accepted this stooge regime as a legitimate government (even though it was) imposed upon us by air craft and (the) bombing of invaders", he said. "We have a long way to go". The State Department said on Saturday that Khalilzad would spend the rest of the month traveling to Belgium, Germany, Turkey, Qatar, Afghanistan and Pakistan to work on Afghan peace process. So far, though, he noted that the Taliban have been unwilling to take this step, arguing that the government is illegitimate. "We made significant progress on vital issues", he wrote on Twitter.

Washington wants assurances that Afghanistan will not harbour groups that would use the country as a base to launch attacks on the US.

US President Donald Trump has publicly questioned the benefits of a continued military presence in Afghanistan, and ordered the military to pull out of Syria in December.

Head of Political Office of the Taliban Sher Mohammad Abbas Stanakzai (front L) and Former President of Afghanistan Hamid Karzai (front R) greet each other after the peace talks on Moscow format at the President Hotel in Moscow, Russia on February 6, 2019.

The U.S. military turned its attention largely to Iraq in 2003, and eventually the Taliban were able to regenerate enough combat power to contest key battlefields, mainly in the south.

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