U.S. peace envoy Zalmay Khalilzad says that a peaceful end to the 17-year conflict in Afghanistan requires the Taliban to engage in direct talks with the Afghan government, which they have consistently refused to do.
Zalmay Khalilzad spoke to the Afghan media in Kabul on January 16 on his latest visit to the country, amid diplomatic efforts to bring an end to the conflict which began with the 2001 U.S. invasion.
“The road to peace will require Taliban to sit with other Afghans, including the government,” Khalilzad said.
“There is a consensus among all regional partners on this point,” he added, according to a press release by the U.S. Embassy in Kabul.
Taliban representatives have long refused to hold direct talks with the Afghan government, which they say is an U.S. puppet.
Taliban envoys have met several times with U.S. officials over the past months, but earlier this week threatened to suspend the talks, accusing Washington of changing the agenda of the talks and “unilaterally” adding new points.
“If the Talibs want to talk, we can talk, if they want to fight we can fight. We hope that the Talibs want to make peace,” Khalilzad said in response to the threat.
Khalilzad arrived in Kabul late on January 15, where he met with the country’s political leaders. He had previously traveled to India, the United Arab Emirates, and China. He is expected next in Pakistan.
His tour — the third since his appointment in September — comes shortly after U.S. officials said in December that President Donald Trump intends to withdraw as many as half of the 14,000 US troops deployed in Afghanistan.