Kabul govt key to peace talks, US says after Taleban progress

KABUL (AFP) – Afghanistan said on Monday it has been reassured by Washington that progress in talks with the Taleban remains geared towards facilitating peace negotiations with the government in Kabul.

The United States (US) special envoy Zalmay Khalilzad arrived in Afghanistan late on Sunday to update officials, including President Ashraf Ghani, on six days of talks with Taleban representatives in Qatar.

Both the US and the Taleban have cited “progress” as hopes rise that the unprecedented length of the negotiations could mean a deal paving the way to Afghan peace talks may be in sight, although sticking points remain.

But Afghan authorities have previously complained of being excluded from the discussions, and warned that any deal between the US and the Taleban would require Kabul’s endorsement.

“The US insisted in their talks with the Taleban that the only solution for lasting peace in Afghanistan is intra-Afghan talks,” Khalilzad said, according to a statement released by the presidential palace in Kabul.

“My role is to facilitate” such talks between the insurgents and Kabul, Khalilzad said according to Ghani, adding that the discussions are ongoing. The Taleban have long refused to negotiate with the Afghan government, branding them as “puppets”.

The palace said Khalilzad also confirmed that no agreement had been made on the withdrawal of foreign troops, adding that any such decision would be coordinated and discussed in detail with the Afghan government.