The U.S. special envoy for Afghanistan has arrived in Kabul for talks with Afghan officials as part of efforts to reach a peace deal to end the 17-year war with the Taliban.
Zalmay Khalilzad, 67, an Afghan-born former U.S. ambassador to Kabul and Iraq, was appointed in September to the U.S. State Department team that is leading the reconciliation effort and peace talks with the Taliban.
A spokesman for Afghan President Ashraf Ghani said Khalilzad met with Ghani upon his arrival. He added that Khalilzad is expected to meet senior ministers and top diplomats in Kabul on October 8.
The State Department had earlier said Khalilzad would coordinate and lead U.S. efforts to bring the Taliban to the negotiating table. It said he would lead an interagency delegation to Afghanistan, Pakistan, the United Arab Emirates, Qatar, and Saudi Arabia from October 4-14.
Khalilzad’s visit comes as the Taliban and the Islamic State (IS) militant group have stepped up attacks across the country ahead of long-delayed parliamentary polls, expected to come in two weeks.
The Kabul government has struggled to fend off a resurgent Taliban, IS, and Al-Qaeda militants nearly two decades after a U.S.-led coalition drove the Taliban from power in Afghanistan in 2001.
IS and Al-Qaeda have not been included in previous cease-fires and are not expected to be part of any reconciliation talks between Kabul and the Taliban.
Based on reporting by AP, AFP, and Reuters