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US envoy questions Afghan Taliban’s Desire for Peace

Kabul, Dec 21 (GCCurrentAffairs)US peace envoy Zalmay Khalilzad raised questions about Afghan Taliban’s desire to end the 17-year war, after the militants refused to meet a Kabul-backed negotiating team.

According to the Dawn, Mr Khalilzad was certain that the Afghan government wanted to stop the conflict, he questioned whether the Taliban were “genuinely seeking peace.”

“If the Taliban are really seeking peace, they have to sit with the Afghan government ultimately to reach an agreement on the future political settlement in Afghanistan,” the former US ambassador to Kabul said.

The Taliban have long refused to talk directly to the Afghan government, which the group accuses of being a puppet of the United States.

In a message released on Tuesday the militants said they had held “preliminary talks” with Mr Khalilzad on Monday.

They also said they had held “extensive” meetings with officials from Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and the UAE, repeating demands for international forces to be withdrawn from Afghanistan.

The meetings are the latest in a flurry of diplomatic efforts as Washington seeks a way out of the Afghan conflict, which began with the 2001 US-led invasion of the country that had harbored Al-Qaeda chief Osama bin Laden, the mastermind of the 9/11 attacks.

While US President Donald Trump wanted to end the war, Mr Khalilzad said that Washington’s ‘main objective’ was to ensure Afghanistan did not pose a threat to the United States in the future.

While ruling out a ‘pre-9/11 situation’ in Afghanistan, Mr Khalilzad said he told the Taliban that “if the menace of terrorism is tackled, the United States is not looking for a permanent military presence” in the country.

He repeated his desire for a peace deal before the Afghan presidential election scheduled to be held in April, but added it was up to the “government and the Taliban.”

Via UNI-India

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