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U.S. Peace Envoy Heading To Afghanistan, Pakistan, Qatar

FILE: U.S. peace envoy Zalmay Khalilzad
FILE: U.S. peace envoy Zalmay Khalilzad

U.S. peace envoy Zalmay Khalilzad will visit Afghanistan, Pakistan, the United Arab Emirates, and Qatar this month to push for peace negotiations with the Afghan Taliban, the State Department says.

A statement said Khalilzad will travel to the region from November 8 to 20 and meet with Afghan government officials and "other interested parties to advance the goal of an intra-Afghan dialogue and negotiations that include the Taliban and lead to a sustainable peace."

For years, the United States has been trying to persuade the Taliban to agree to negotiate an end to the 17-year conflict in Afghanistan, as the Afghan security forces continue to struggle to counter stepped-up attacks by the militant group in its drive to force the Western-backed government in Kabul from power.

U.S. efforts foundered over the militants' insistence on negotiating directly with Washington rather than the Afghan government, which it calls a "puppet" of the United States.

Khalilzad, Trump's special adviser on Afghanistan, last visited the region in October.

The State Department said he had been "encouraged" to see that both the government in Kabul and the Taliban are "taking steps" toward organizing "authoritative negotiating teams."

"A sustainable peace requires that all Afghans have a say in their country's future," it also said.

"The United States remains committed to a political settlement that results in an end to the war and to the terrorist threat posed to the United States and the world," the statement added. "A peaceful Afghanistan can play a catalytic role in regional trade and development."

As recently as late October, U.S. and Taliban officials conducted preliminary talks in Qatar, where the militants have a political office that serves as a de facto embassy.

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