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article imageUS envoy to Afghanistan on peace mission to several countries

By Ken Hanly     Jul 27, 2020 in Politics
Zalmay Khalilzad, the US envoy to Afghanistan, left of Friday for a trip that will take him to Afghanistan plus four other countries to promote the Afghan peace process and also push for intra-Afghan talks between the Taliban and Afghan government.
Khalilzad's itinerary
The US State Department
said that as well as Afghanistan, Khalilzad will visit Doha in Qatar, the site of the February talks that led to the US Taliban peace deal the end of February. He also is expected to make stops in Islamabad where he seeks Pakistani help with intra-Afghan talks. He will also make stops in Norway and Bulgaria where he will update NATO allies on the ongoing peace process.
Afghan president's statement on negotiations
Afghan president said on Sunday that the Afghan government would not be entering talks from a position of weakness. He claimed that the government would not be compromised in the negotiations: “I will not compromise on the republic. I will not compromise on Afghanistan. We are proud of the republic."
Despite continuing violence both sides are in favor of talks
Both sides continue fighting but even so both are also in favor of intra-Afghan talks between the government and the Taliban. The delay in the talks has been caused by the reluctance of the Afghan government to complete the terms of a prisoner swap that was part of the terms of the February agreement between the US and the Taliban.
The prisoner swap
The US Taliban agreement involved a prisoner swap of 5,000 Taliban for 1,000 Afghan prisoners held by the Taliban. However, the Afghan government was not involved in negotiations and was reluctant to release all the prisoners. However, no doubt under pressure from the US, the Afghan government has now released most of the 5,000 but has complained that some are too dangerous to release. The situation is even more complicated now if reports that some prisoners have been recaptured are true. Recent reports indicate that the Taliban have released about 700 Afghan prisoners and the Afghan government over 4,000.
Just last week, a Taliban spokesperson said the group was ready to start talks after the Muslim holiday of Eid al-Adha providing the prisoner swaps were complete by then. This year the holiday begins on Friday July 31.
More about US Afghan relations, Taiban Afghan talks, Zalmay Khalilzad
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