Pakistan freed Taliban co-founder at U.S. request: Envoy | newkerala.com #99429

US Afghan envoy Zalmay Khalilzad wants peace deal before July vote

The envoy, Zalmay Khalilzad, said he hopes a final deal is clinched before Afghanistan's presidential election in July.

"It will be better for Afghanistan if we could get a peace agreement before the election, which is scheduled in July", Khalilzad said, adding that there remained "a lot of work" to do.

Zalmay Khalilzad, a former ambassador to Afghanistan who has spoken extensively with the Taleban in recent weeks, also stressed that any U.S. troop withdrawal would be dependent on conditions on the ground, and not on any particular timetable.

Khalilzad, who held talks with Taliban representatives four times in the last four months, has expressed cautious optimism about the prospect of a deal, and even announced a draft framework, but stressed nothing had been finalized.

Khalilzad said USA withdrawal from Afghanistan could only be sought after a peace agreement is reached.

In the meantime, Khalilzad said the Taliban leaders may participate in future summits in the presence of Afghan government representatives.

The Taliban considers the Kabul government a Western puppet and has so far refused to directly negotiate with it.

Khalilzad said that he requested Baradar's release because he believed the senior Taliban leader could also play a constructive role in the Afghan peace initiative.

With regard to how the Islamist group's influence will affect women in Afghanistan, Khalilzad said the Taliban "have a different view on this issue now".

One of the most notable public signs of Pakistan's willingness to aid the negotiations was the release of Taliban leader Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar.

Last year, the United States dropped more than 7,000 bombs, missiles and other munitions on extremists in Afghanistan - up from 2,365 in 2014, the Times said, citing military data.

"They understand that they can not go back" to how things were, the USA negotiator said.

Khalilzad said the Russia-backed talks were "positive" as long as they helped facilitate intra-Afghan talks, not if they "polarize Afghans further". Because peace agreement can allow withdrawal.

Has the Taliban Turned the Tables on Ashraf Ghani?

But there is "a positive change" in Pakistan's attitude in recent times, he said when asked about the role of Islamabad in his ongoing efforts to bring peace in this war-ravaged country.

The ministry's remarks came days after the government lodged a complaint with the United Nations over a recent trip by members of the Taliban to Moscow. Haroon Chakhansuri, spokesperson to the Afghan President, called the Moscow meeting "a political and academic discussion".

Khalilzad called any continued threat of terrorism emanating from Afghanistan a "red line" in negotiations with the Taliban.

Among several points of contention, however, is the Taliban's unwillingness to negotiate directly with the government of Afghanistan, which they argue is propped up by the US government. "It's for the Afghans to accept each other", Khalilzad said.

The roots of the conflict in Afghanistan is not only in Afghanistan but also in the broader region. In a short statement issued late Wednesday, the government said the talks "hold no weight" as delegates attending the meeting in Moscow had no executive authority and that the gathering was only political and academic talks. 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.

Olson was also skeptical of the Russian intentions, calling them "potential spoilers". "Baradar has a reputation of being more open, more pro-peace", the diplomat told an audience at the US Institute of Peace.

Earlier this month, the Taliban met with a group of Afghan politicians in Moscow.

Responding to a question regarding the timing of the talks, the militant commander explained that, even prior to the USA invasion, the Taliban had asked Washington to engage in dialogue instead of war, the channel said. He also clarified that the Taliban's negotiators agreed to the condition, but not its leadership.

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