US Envoy Khalilzad to Meet Taliban in Qatar, Visit India, Pakistan

The U.S. special envoy on Afghanistan is on a mission to press Taliban negotiators in Doha and officials in India and Pakistan to support reduced violence, speeding up intra-Afghan peace talks and cooperating on the coronavirus pandemic, the State Department said on Wednesday.

U.S. Special Representative Zalmay Khalilzad’s trip comes amid concerns that surging Taliban attacks and the coronavirus pandemic could deal potentially fatal blows to his stalled efforts to end decades of strife in Afghanistan.

At each stop, Khalilzad “will urge support for an immediate reduction in violence, accelerated timeline for the start of intra-Afghan negotiations, and cooperation among all sides in addressing the COVID-19 pandemic in Afghanistan,” the State Department said.
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The statement did not disclose the exact schedule of Khalilzad’s trip that began on Tuesday.

It is the second trip he has made since April 12 in the midst of the pandemic to salvage a Feb. 29 accord that he and the Taliban’s second in command, Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, signed for a phased withdrawal of U.S. troops from America’s longest war.

Khalilzad, the State Department said, would press Taliban officials “for full implementation” of the Feb. 29 agreement.

In New Delhi, a key supporter of the Afghan government, Khalilzad will discuss India’s role in sustaining peace, and he will hold talks on the peace process in Islamabad, the State Department said.

Pakistan has provided sanctuary and other support to the Taliban for decades as part of a strategy to blunt the influence in Kabul of India, Islamabad’s long-time foe, according to U.S. officials. Pakistan denies backing the militants.

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