US envoy, Taliban leader and Pakistan army chief discuss Afghan peace process

US special peace envoy for Afghanistan, Zalmay Khalilzad, has met with the Taliban deputy leader, Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar in Qatar to discuss Afghan peace. After meeting with the Taliban leader, Mr. Khalilzad left Doha for Islamabad where he met with Pakistani authorities and discussed Afghan peace process, according to Taliban’s political office in Doha and the US Embassy in Pakistan.

In the meetings, Khalilzad was accompanied by commander of US-led NATO mission in Afghanistan Resolute Support, General Austin Scott Miller.

According to Suhail Shaheen, spokesperson for Taliban’s political office in Doha, the US top diplomat and military commander in Afghanistan talked about “complete implementation” of the US-Taliban peace deal, delay in release of the prisoners, violation of the agreement, and solutions for the problems in their meeting with the Taliban delegation. “The meeting was hosted by Sheikh Mohammad bin Abdur Rahman Al-thani, foreign minister and Deputy-Prime Minister of Qatar,” he added.

The US-Taliban agreement was signed by Khalilzad and Mullah Baradar, after nearly a two year long direct talks between negotiators of the two sides, on February 29 in Doha, capital of Qatar. The Taliban, however, have repeatedly accused the US and Afghan government of violating the agreement since then, inter-alia, delays in release of the group’s prisoners held by the government.

The claims made by the Taliban, however, have been rejected by US military officials in Afghanistan, most often with a supporting stance to defend the Afghan national defense and security forces in line with the agreement signed in Doha.

Moreover, in a brief visit to Islamabad, the US officials have also discussed the Afghan peace process and US peace efforts for a sustainable peace in Afghanistan in meeting with Pakistan’s Chief of Army Staff General Qamar Javed Bajwa. “Pakistan’s military leaders reaffirmed their support for U.S. efforts and renewed their commitment to act to advance a political settlement to the conflict,” part of a statement issued by the US embassy in Islamabad reads.

On the other hand, NATO secretary general, Jens Stoltenberg has called for a full implementation of the US-Taliban agreement. “We call on the Taliban to cease the attacks, to fully implement the agreement between the United States and the Taliban and to reduce violence because that’s the only way towards a peaceful negotiated solution”, Mr. Stoltenberg was quoted as saying at an online press conference.

Meanwhile, spokesperson for Afghanistan Office of the National Security Council, Javid Faisal, has said that the Taliban have increased violence in Afghanistan, calling again on the militant group to stop killings and agree on a permanent ceasefire.