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U.S. peace envoy in Kabul for first time since peace deal with Taliban collapsed

Zalmay Khalilzad at CPAC 2011 in Washington, D.C. (Gage Skidmore/Flickr)

This article was originally published by Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and is reprinted with permission.

U.S. peace envoy Zalmay Khalilzad has held talks with Afghan leaders in the capital, Kabul, his first trip back since U.S. President Donald Trump ended talks with the Taliban aimed at ending America’s longest war.

Khalilzad’s visit came after a series of meetings aimed at restarting peace efforts, including with the Taliban earlier this month in neighboring Pakistan.

Khalilzad held talks on October 27 with President Ashraf Ghani and Chief Executive Officer Abdullah Abdullah.

Abdullah and Khalilzad discussed the peace process and the best way to “achieve a lasting and just peace in Afghanistan,” according to a statement from Abdullah’s office.

Sayed Hamed Gailani, an Afghan politician, posted on his Twitter account late on October 26 that he met with Khalilzad and his team in Kabul to discuss the recent presidential election and peace efforts.

Gailani told RFE/RL that his meeting with Khalilzad revealed that there was a will to resume peace talks with the Taliban.

Khalilzad and Taliban representatives spent nearly a year negotiating a potential peace agreement that would have seen the United States withdraw its troops from Afghanistan in return for security guarantees.

The sides were poised to reach a final deal last month before Trump declared the peace process “dead” as violence continued unabated in the war.

Since then, the Taliban has said it was ready to stand by the tentative agreement.

Khalilzad’s visit to Kabul came after visits to Islamabad, Brussels, and Moscow this month.

His trip comes ahead of intra-Afghan talks in Beijing on October 28-29, as part of international efforts to end to the Afghan conflict.

Beijing has not confirmed the talks, but a Foreign Ministry spokesperson said it was “willing to facilitate and help” the Afghan peace process “on the basis of respecting the wishes of all parties.”

Taliban spokesman Suhail Shaheen told RFE/RL that a delegation of the militant group will attend the talks.

Najia Anwari, a spokesman for the Peace Affairs Ministry, said the government was still “working on the structure of an inclusive and proper peace delegation for the meeting in China,” suggesting the meeting could be postponed until Kabul announces a delegation.

With reporting by Reuters, AP, and Tolo News