The US Special Representative for Afghanistan Reconciliation Zalmay Khalilzad on Wednesday said that the Afghan people deserve peace and that they are at war for 40 years.
“We are in hurry to end the Afghan tragedy," Khalilzad said in an interview with US's PBS news agency.
In a response to a question on a deadline for peace, Khalilzad said: “Everyone, starting with the President, would like to see the war in Afghanistan end, there be reconciliation and peace among the war functions."
He said the US wants a peace that is worthy of the sacrifices that have been made in the past 17 years.
“We believe that the war factions, including the Taliban, they are saying that they cannot win the war and the Afghan government says that they want a political settlement. We say that we want a political settlement. We lead the international forces that are in Afghanistan so given that, it would be a moment of opportunity," he said.
Khalilzad said that it would be good if there is an agreement with the Taliban ahead of the upcoming presidential elections.
“Ideally, of course it would be good to have an agreement with the Taliban first and then have the presidential election because then the Taliban also participate in a possible election or whatever roadmap that the Afghans agreed to,” he said.
He said that a possible delay in elections will be a decision by Afghans.
“The election timeline has been announced today and if there would be an agreement among the Afghans, meaning Talibs and others to do so, it’s really a decision of Afghans to make,” the US envoy said.
“For peace to happen, the Afghans must accept each other and must agree on a roadmap to end the tragedy of the last 40 years in Afghanistan,” he added.
On Pakistan, Khalilzad said the US wants Afghanistan to be at peace with itself and with its neighbors.
Meanwhile, NBC News reported that Khalilzad is moving rapidly to reach out to as many top Taliban figures as possible in an attempt to start peace talks before the president orders a troop pullout without an end to the conflict.
Khalilzad is "testing all channels," said one Western diplomat, who was not authorized to speak on the record.
Two foreign diplomats and three former US officials told NBC News that Khalilzad has moved beyond the official Taliban office in Qatar to meet other members of the militant group, including meetings in the United Arab Emirates.
One Western diplomat described Khalilzad’s method as “testing all channels.”
Trump in recent weeks has made clear his frustration with the US military mission in Afghanistan, and in a Tuesday interview with The Washington Post floated the idea of removing troops from the Middle East.
The president cited the lower price of oil as a reason to withdraw and said that he was only keeping a military presence in Afghanistan because “experts” told him that United States forces were still needed there.
“Now, are we going to stay in that part of the world? One reason to is Israel,” Trump said. “Oil is becoming less and less of a reason because we’re producing more oil now than we’ve ever produced. So, you know, all of a sudden it gets to a point where you don’t have to stay there.”
Roughly 14,000 US service members are based in Afghanistan, predominantly to assist Afghan security forces against the Taliban and militants aligned with the Daesh in Iraq and Syria.
Khalilzad, who also served as US ambassador to Afghanistan after the 9/11 attacks, has moved quickly in his diplomacy, as it’s assumed that Trump will pull troops out of in Afghanistan before the 2020 US presidential election, current and former US officials told NBC News.
In an attempt to bring the Taliban to the negotiating table, the Trump administration has also taken up a major bombing campaign, dropping more than 5,200 bombs on the country as of Sept. 30, a record high.
Meanwhile, a member of the peace negotiations team said efforts by the US envoy on Afghanistan reconciliation are “not clear”.
“They must explain what kind of peace they want; if they want the peace that we want, we will support it, but if the peace is meant for intelligence games, then we reject peace offer from anyone,” said Abdul Hakimd Muneeb, member of government’s peace negotiating team, as he addressed a gathering in Kabul on Thursday.
Some key political parties meanwhile said they are not accepting the government’s team for peace negotiations.
“Formation of this team will not fill any space and it means nothing until the delegation is formed by government encompasses tribal elders, political parties and an authorized and high level delegation. I don’t think the Taliban will talk to them,” Abdul Sattar Murad, member of Jamiat-e-Islami, told TOLOnews.