US, Taleban to hold more talks on ending war

Zalmay Khalilzad talks with Afghans after a TV debate in Kabul, April 28, 2019.
Zalmay Khalilzad talks with Afghans after a TV debate in Kabul, April 28, 2019.PHOTO: REUTERS

WASHINGTON (AFP) - The United States and the Taleban will open fresh negotiations next week, the US negotiator said on Saturday (June 22), as he voiced hope for progress in ending America's longest war.

Zalmay Khalilzad, the US special representative on Afghanistan, said the two sides would start their seventh round of talks on June 29.

"Based on my recent visits to Afghanistan and Qatar, I believe all sides want rapid progress," Khalilzad wrote on Twitter.

The State Department, announcing Khalilzad's travel before the date of the latest talks were set, said the negotiations with the Taleban would take place as usual in Qatar.

Khalilzad is hoping to negotiate a deal under which the United States would withdraw troops first sent after the Sept 11, 2001 attacks.

In turn, the Taleban would guarantee that Afghanistan would not be used as a staging ground by Islamist extremists such as Al-Qaeda - the main reason for the US invasion nearly two decades earlier.

The Taleban have refused US appeals to end the violence to improve the atmosphere of talks, instead pressing on with their insurgency.

 
 

Taleban leader Haibatullah Akhundzada in a message for the Islamic holiday of Eid al-Fitr earlier this month said that the Taleban's "resistance against the occupation is nearing the stage of success."

In another key sticking point, the Taleban have not negotiated with the internationally recognised government in Kabul, although a UN official recently confirmed that Germany and Qatar were working to organise an inter-Afghan meeting.

President Donald Trump has voiced impatience with the war, believing there is no further reason to bear the cost in money or lives.