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(Last Updated On: September 13, 2020)

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US Special Representative for Afghanistan Reconciliation Zalmay Khalilzad said Sunday the  start of the intra-Afghan talks is a new beginning for the Afghan people and a way to “find a political formula for ending the war that could lead to a comprehensive and permanent ceasefire.”

In an interview with Ariana News on the sideline of the long-waited intra-Afghan talks in Doha, Khalilzad said the Afghan and Taliban delegations need to agree on a reduction in violence.

This would then need to lead to a comprehensive and permanent ceasefire enabling the two sides to pursue talks in a peaceful environment, he said.

 “We demand violence be reduced and a permanent and comprehensive ceasefire to be reached as soon as possible,” Khalilzad said.

Referring to US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s statement that America has no intention of forcing a political system on other countries, Khalilzad stated that US support for Afghanistan depends on a system in which Afghans can practice democracy.

“If people do not support the future system, if it was not democratic, the rights of the people would not be respected, women would be deprived of their rights, and then we would make our own decision,” he said. 

Regarding the troops drawdown in Afghanistan, the US envoy said that US forces would be reduced to 4,500 until the end of November; “Commander of US Forces said that with these soldiers they can accomplish their responsibilities and until the end of November we will monitor the situation.” 

Many critics have claimed that the urgency involved in withdrawing troops is a campaign move by US President Donald Trump ahead of the November elections. They state this is in keeping with his 2016 election promise of bringing home all American troops. 

Khalilzad meanwhile has been the driving force behind the peace talks process and has worked for two years to get both parties to the talks tables. 

In a briefing ahead of the historic start to the talks on Saturday, he said peace talks was a test for both sides – for the Taliban and for the Afghan government and raised the question of whether the two sides could “reach an agreement despite differences in terms of their visions for the future of Afghanistan?”

He pointed out that the peace talks process had reached an important juncture but that there are difficulties and significant challenges in the way of reaching an agreement.

However, the US was prepared to assist if needed, he said, adding that this phase is a new stage in the diplomacy path to peace. 

Khalilzad stated that from now on the process is Afghan-owned and Afghan-led and that there will be no foreign mediators nor facilitators when the sides hold their talks. 

He also said that in light of upcoming elections in the US, he was hoping that progress would have been made regarding negotiations by that time.


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