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US envoy for Afghanistan says Taliban won’t accept permanent cease-fire until political agreement

Zalmay Khalilzad at CPAC 2011 in Washington, D.C. (Gage Skidmore/Flickr)
September 27, 2020

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

Zalmay Khalilzad, the U.S. envoy for Afghanistan, has predicted the Taliban will not accept a permanent truce until a political deal is reached with the Afghan government.

“I think you’re right that the Talibs will not accept a cease-fire, comprehensive and permanent, until there’s a political settlement,” Khalilzad said on September 25.

His comments to the U.S. public broadcaster PBS came as Taliban militants continue to carry out attacks across the country despite taking part in peace talks with the Afghan government in Qatar.

Khalilzad said despite the current spike in violence, it was still at lower levels than the same time last year.

“Compared to the first six months of last year to this year, despite a recent increase in violence, the number of casualties, both military and civilians, are down this year,” Khalilzad, a veteran diplomat, said.

“So, yes, the violence is high at this point. And both sides need to bring down the level of violence. And we’re committed, when I return to work with both sides, to get an agreement on reduction of violence,” he added.

When asked why the militants have not yet publicly cut ties with the terror network of Al-Qaeda as set out in their deal with the United States, Khalilzad said that Washington will assess the situation in the next couple of months after the number of its troops in Afghanistan drop to 4,000-5,000 from the current level of 8,500.

The comments came as dozens of members of the Afghan security forces were killed or wounded across the country in a series of Taliban attacks.

Taliban militants on September 26 claimed to have killed an unspecified number of troops in central Bamyan Province and northeastern Badakhshan Province.

On September 23, the Taliban launched a wave of attacks on security checkpoints in southern Afghanistan overnight, killing a total of 28 Afghan policemen, officials said.

The violence comes even as Taliban leaders and Afghan government-appointed negotiators are holding historic peace talks in Qatar, a Mideast country where the Taliban set up a political office after they were toppled from power in the 2001 U.S.-led invasion of Afghanistan.

The negotiations, which started earlier this month, are meant to end the fighting and establish a roadmap for a postwar society.

In the negotiations in Qatar, the two sides have so far have spent more than a week deciding agendas and the manner in which the two sides will be conducting the negotiations.