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US special envoy to visit Afghanistan, Pakistan

WASHINGTON DC / MOSCOW (Web Desk) United States special envoy for peace in Afghanistan Zalmay Khalilzad will visit Afghanistan, Pakistan, the United Arab Emirates and Qatar from November 8 to 20 to push for peace negotiations with the Afghan Taliban, the US State Department said on Thursday.

Khalilzad met Taliban leaders in Qatar last month as part of efforts to find a way to end the 17-year-long war in Afghanistan, according to the militant group that was ousted from power by US-led forces in 2001.

“On his last trip to the region in October, Special Representative Khalilzad called on the Afghan Government and the Taliban to organise authoritative negotiating teams, and has been encouraged to see that both parties are taking steps in that direction,” the State Department said in a statement.

“The United States remains committed to a political settlement that results in an end to the war and to the terrorist threat posed to the United States and the world.”

In Khalilzad’s October visit, Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi asserted that Pakistan was looking forward to playing its part in finding a political solution to the Afghan conflict. The two sides held delegation-level talks on the Afghan reconciliation process at the Foreign Office in Islamabad.

The Taliban are fighting the US-backed Kabul government to re-impose Shariah law and have stepped up attacks in strategic provinces.

A senior Taliban official said after last month’s talks that Khalilzad had asked the Taliban leadership, based in the Qatari capital Doha, to declare a ceasefire in Afghanistan for six months.

In exchange, the Taliban want the Afghan government to release fighters from jails and the swift removal of foreign forces fighting alongside Afghan troops.

A statement by the US embassy in Kabul about Khalilzad’s diplomatic tour in October did not confirm his meeting with the Taliban.

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