Khalilzad hopes intra-Afghan talks conclude in ‘100 days’

Zalmay Khalilzad. (Photo: Twitter/@US4AfghanPeace)

Kabul, March 12 (IANS) Zalmay Khalilzad, the US Special Representative for Afghanistan Reconciliation, has expressed hope for the intra-Afghan talks between the Kabul government and the Taliban would conclude in 100 days.

Khalilzad, who signed the long-awaited peace deal in behalf of the US with the Taliban in Doha on February, made the remarks while speaking to the Kabul-based TOLO News on Wednesday.

The intra-Afghan talks which were slated to begin on March 10 in Oslo were delayed because of the issues over the timing of the Taliban prisoner release.

According to informed sources, if the 5,000 Taliban prisoners were released, the talks would start within 10 days.

Speaking to TOLO News, Khalilzad said: “In order to end the war between Afghanistan and the Taliban, there is a need for a compromise to reach a political settlement.”

“I personally hope that this issue (intra-Afghan negotiations) will be resolved within 100 days. We want this issue to be resolved during the first phase of the withdrawal of US forces from the country, and this will be in the interest of Afghanistan and the world,” the envoy said, referring to the US-Taliban peace agreement, which states that the US will fully withdraw its forces over the next 14 months, and that the current force of about 13,000 troops will be reduced to 8,600 within 135 days.

Khalilzad, however, clarified that the withdrawal of all US troops from Afghanistan in 14 months was condition-based.

When asked what he felt during the signing of the US-Taliban deal, Khalilzad told TOLO News: “I had a feeling of hope, but it was nothing to celebrate. There is a possibility that this agreement will open the door for intra-Afghan talks, and I think this will happen, but we can only celebrate after it is completed.”

Khalilzad suggested that Afghans, in light of the past 40 years of conflict, need to agree on a formula where the bitter events of the past were not repeated.

“If an agreement (peace agreement between Afghans) is reached, for a dignified and longstanding peace, then the day the US-Taliban agreement was signed will be remembered as an important event in the modern history of Afghanistan.”

Meanwhile, the Presidential Palace said on Wednesday that discussions were ongoing to finalize the list of delegates for the intra-Afghan talks.

Seddiq Seddiqi, a spokesman for the Palace, said that consultations were ongoing to finalize the delegates list.

“It is not finalized yet because of some consultations. We hope that the elders share their advice to finalize the list,” TOLO News quoted Seddiqi as saying.

The US wants the delegation to be inclusive.

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