Zalmay Khalilzad, US envoy for reconciliation in Afghanistan, has said the peace talks have reached an “important stage” amid a renewed push to reach an agreement with the Taliban to end the 18-year-old war in the country.
In a series of tweets on Wednesday, Khalilzad said he has wrapped up his two-day trip to Kabul, calling it a “productive trip”, where he met President Ashraf Ghani, Chief Executive Abdullah Abdullah, former President Hamid Karzai, women’s rights activists and other political leaders.
“We discussed efforts to achieve reduced violence and pave the way to intra-Afghan negotiations,” he tweeted.
In a statement released by the president’s office, Ghani said Khalilzad briefed him on the recent talks with the Taliban in the Qatari capital of Doha and with various Pakistani officials.
“Both Khalilzad and the president discussed the ceasefire and the Taliban’s ‘safe havens outside Afghanistan’,” Afghan local media TOLOnews reported, citing the statement.
— U.S. Special Representative Zalmay Khalilzad (@US4AfghanPeace) December 18, 2019
Ghani’s spokesman Sediq Seddiqi said Khalilzad and Ghani discussed several topics, including the need for a ceasefire.
“The president also expressed his concerns about the continued violence by the Taliban,” Sediqqi said.
A Taliban official in Doha, speaking on condition of anonymity, told Al Jazeera that a ceasefire in Afghanistan will come in place when an agreement is signed, referring to the deal being discussed between the US and the Taliban.
“How can we implement ceasefire when the US is still bombarding and conduction operations in several areas of Afghanistan? A ceasefire in the country will only be possible when both sides sign the agreement,” he said.
Khalilzad’s trip to Kabul came after the US and the Taliban paused their talks in Doha following a Taliban attack on a US military base in Bagram last week that killed two Afghan civilians and wounded more than 70.
The talks resumed earlier this month after US President Donald Trump made a surprise Thanksgiving Day trip to visit the American soldiers posted in Afghanistan.
Trump had off called the talks in September following a Taliban attack in Kabul that killed a US soldier.
The US president has expressed frustration with the 18-year war in Afghanistan, saying he wants to bring the estimated 12,000 American soldiers home.