U.S. Special Representative for Afghanistan Reconciliation Zalmay Khalilzad is scheduled to visit Kabul in his latest five-nation trip to press for peace talks between the government and Taliban, the U.S. State Department said on Saturday.
“Although significant progress has been made on prisoner exchanges, the issue requires additional effort to fully resolve,” the State Department said.
The special envoy departed on July 24 and will be visiting Qatar, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Norway and Bulgaria.
In Doha and Kabul, Khalilzad “will press for resolution of the remaining issues ahead of intra-Afghan negotiations, specifically final prisoner exchanges and reduced violence,” the State Department said.
In Islamabad, he will “seek Pakistani support” to advance the Afghan peace process and the negotiations.
The stops in Oslo and Sofia, are to “update NATO Allies” on the Afghan peace process.
“The parties are closer than ever to the start of Intra-Afghan Negotiations, the key next step to ending Afghanistan’s 40-year long war,” the Department stated.
The U.S. has drawn down troops in Afghanistan under the Doha Agreement struck with the Taliban.
Khalilzad’s task is to try and bring both sides to the table for formal peace talks to begin between the insurgents and the Afghan government.
Iran not supportive enough of Afghan peace process
Khalilzad blamed Iran for not properly supporting the Afghan peace process at a virtual panel organised by the U.S. Institute of Peace on Friday.
“Iran has not been as supportive as it should be in the effort to get to intra-Afghan negotiations and an Afghan settlement largely due to our relations with them. We have worked hard with India and Pakistan to support the Afghan Peace Process,” Khalilzad said.
He rejected the remarks by Iran’s Deputy Minister of Foreign Affair Abbas Araghchi regarding the peace drive when Araghchi was in Afghanistan in mid-July.
“Competition and differences among Central Asian countries had created challenges to a regional consensus on the Afghan peace effort,” the Khalilzad said.
Khalilzad had also condemned the Afghan government for the airstrike in Herat for the deaths of multiple civilians.