US peace envoy Khalilzad visited Afghanistan

The US Special Representative for Afghanistan Reconciliation Zalmay Khalilzad and his team arrived in Kabul on Monday, March 01, to discuss peace talks with the Afghan side.

A statement issued by the office of the High Council for National Reconciliation (HCNR) said that Mr. Khalilzad met with Abdullah Abdullah, the chairperson of the HCNR, and discussed peace-related issues including a review of the US-Taliban peace pact.

The US Department of State, in a statement, announced that Khalilzad will visit Doha and other regional capitals to discuss the prospect of future Afghan peace.

“He will resume discussions on the way ahead with the Islamic Republic and Afghan leaders, Taliban representatives, and regional countries whose interests are best served by the achievement of a just and durable political settlement and permanent and comprehensive ceasefire,” the State Department said in a media note issued on February 28.

This is Khalilzad’s first visit to Afghanistan, Qatar, and the region under the US Biden Administration aimed at facilitating a political settlement between the Afghan government and the Taliban. He was named as the special representative by then the US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo earlier in September 2018.

Following his extensive talks with the Taliban representatives, Afghan political figures, and visits to regional capitals, a deal was reached between the US and the Taliban on February 29, 2020. As part of the deal, the Afghan government released 5,000 Taliban prisoners, including 400 notorious ones who had committed war crimes and drug smuggling, in return for the release of around 1,000 government prisoners kept by the Taliban.

Upon completion of the prisoner releases, the intra-Afghan talks were kicked off in Doha on September 12. Nearly two months later, in December 2020, the two negotiating sides agreed to the principles and procedures for proceeding with negotiations on the main agendas of the talks.

On the first anniversary of the US-Taliban deal, the Taliban praised the agreement as a “historic achievement” and noted that the peace agreement is moving smoothly towards a “positive direction.”

The Afghan government, however, has expressed dissatisfaction about the impact of the US-Taliban peace pact in Afghanistan, saying that it has just brought a “ceasefire” between the Taliban and the US. “This pact has brought a ceasefire between America and the Taliban but Taliban’s relation with the people of [Afghanistan] remains as it was in the past. They kill, loot, assassinate and terrorize [the Afghans],” said Rahmatullah Andar, spokesperson for the National Security Council, in a tweet on February 28.