By: Lailuma Noori
KABUL: The US ‘peace’ envoy has met with senior officials in Kabul following his arrival in Afghanistan on an unannounced visit, his first since President Donald Trump halted talks with the Taliban on ending nearly two decades of conflict.
Special Representative for Afghanistan Reconciliation Zalmay Khalilzad was in the Afghan capital on Sunday. He met with President Mohammad Ashraf Ghani, Chief Executive Dr. Abdullah Abdullah and others.
“Khalilzad met with the president and briefed him about his recent activities,” President Ghani’s spokesman Sediq Seddiqi said. “His viewpoints and the stance of the Afghan government for peace were discussed.”
The visit by Khalilzad comes after a flurry of low-key meetings that he has held, including with the Taliban representatives this month in Pakistan.
A senior Taliban source in Pakistan had said the group had not “backtracked” from talks with Washington, suggesting that the ball was in America’s court for how things might proceed.
Some say the Pentagon may want to resume its quest to pull US troops out of Afghanistan, but it first wants to see some sort of concession from the side of the Taliban.
In the past year, Khalilzad held nine rounds of negotiations with the Taliban in Qatar, where the militant group has a political bureau.
In early September, an agreement appeared imminent, but a new wave of violence and the death of a US soldier made Trump to suddenly call off the talks. The White House also canceled a truce signing ceremony at Camp David, of which few had been aware.
More than 14,000 US troops remain in Afghanistan and Trump has repeatedly expressed his frustration with their continued deployment.
Khalilzad’s arrival in the Afghan capital coincided with an announcement that preliminary results of recent presidential elections will be delayed for nearly a month.
Hawa Alam Nuristani, chairwoman of Afghanistan’s Independent Election Commission, said the results would not be released until November 14.
“We have already apologized for missing the date, but this doesn’t mean failure,” Nuristani said.
“This (election) is a fate-determining issue in the country and we cannot accept sacrificing transparency for speed.”
In a separate development on Sunday, at least five Afghan children were killed when a landmine exploded in the northern province of Faryab. Provincial police spokesman Karim Yourish blamed the Taliban for planting the device near the provincial capital Maimana.