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U.S. Envoy Hails 'Most Productive' Afghan Visit

U.S. peace envoy Zalmay Khalilzad.
U.S. peace envoy Zalmay Khalilzad.

U.S. peace envoy Zalmay Khalilzad has wrapped up what he called his “most productive visit” to Kabul since his appointment last year to negotiate a political settlement with the Taliban to end the nearly 18-year war in Afghanistan.

Khalilzad said on July 31 that he is heading to neighboring Pakistan and then on to Qatar, where he is set to hold a ninth round of talks with the Taliban to end the nearly 18-year war in Afghanistan.

“The U.S. and Afghanistan have agreed on next steps. And a negotiating team and technical support group are being finalized,” Khalilzad tweeted as he ended his visit.

"I'm off to Doha, with a stop in Islamabad. In Doha, if the Taliban do their part, we will do ours, and conclude the agreement we have been working on," he wrote in a separate tweet.

The Taliban maintain a political office in Doha.

Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said some senior members of the militant group’s negotiating team were travelling to the Indonesian capital, Jakarta, and that talks with U.S. negotiators would resume after they returned to the Qatari capital.

"I can't say when the talks with the United States will start," Mujahid said.

Two Taliban senior members told RFE/RL on condition of anonymity on July 28 that the group’s negotiating team will include five more members, raising to 19 the number of Taliban negotiators.

Both Washington and the Taliban have said recently that they were making progress toward reaching a peace deal, which would include a timeline for the withdrawal of foreign troops from Afghanistan and on a Taliban guarantee that militants will not plot attacks from Afghan soil.

Any agreement would also require direct talks between the Taliban and representatives of Afghanistan's government.

However, the Taliban so far has refused to speak to President Ashraf Ghani’s government in any official capacity, saying it is illegitimate and is a puppet of foreign states.

On July 29, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said U.S. President Donald Trump wants combat forces of the United States and its allies reduced in Afghanistan before the next U.S. presidential election in November 2020.

With reporting by Reuters and Radio Mashaal

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