Afghan govt. left out of Taliban talks

US Envoy Seeks Peace Deal Before July Vote

When Afghanistan President Ashraf Ghani laid out the red carpet in 2017 for controversial Afghan warlord Gulbuddin Hekmatyar - once known as "the Butcher of Kabul" for his role in the bloody conflict for the control of the capital in the 1990s - many thought he was trying to isolate the central Taliban leadership by luring factions to break away and join the government. Sources caution its help could be temporary.

"What they (Pakistan) do on Afghanistan to facilitate peace and reconciliation, which has been a burden on the relationship, that will be removed", he added.

The talks come as President Donald Trump pushes to end the Afghanistan conflict, where about 14,000 USA troops are still deployed and which has seen countless thousands of civilian and military deaths.

Well-placed sources said the USA administration has taken the final decision to pull out of Afghanistan and are willing to go ahead keeping in view the significance of Pakistan's role.

Khalilzad said Friday that he agreed with Trump's assessment, stating Taliban officials have expressed their desire to end the fighting to him, but in exchange they seek "legitimacy".

"We would prefer to see a peace agreement before July to bring the Taliban also into the process so that the peace agreement would a facility that peaceful election or a framework for proceeding with regards to the future of Afghanistan, he added".

"They (the Taliban) say they made a mistake in how they dealt with women the last time", Khalilzad said.

According to the Times, the increased assaults have helped keep the Taliban engaged in peace talks in the colder months while giving the beleaguered Afghan military time to regroup.

"The real significance of Moscow, in my view, is that it has somewhat isolated the Afghan government", said Richard Olson, a former special representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan for the United States.

The US can not be a substitute for decisions that they must make.

They detained Taliban members' families as a way to pressure them, a Taliban leader told Reuters.

However, he said that now there was "no one that needed (the Taliban's) shelter".

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The envoy, who is a former USA ambassador to Kabul, also called for direct talks to begin as soon as possible between the Taliban and the Afghan government, which thus far has not been involved in Khalilzad's talks.

Pakistan that could not be easily reversed.

There were six days of peace talks in Doha - where Hanafi said the timetable had been set - but there have also been talks elsewhere as the insurgents meet top officials from Asia, Europe and beyond to reach a political settlement aimed at ending the war.

Afghanistan's envoy to Washington, Roya Rahmani, said that any Pakistani shift in behavior was still not apparent from Kabul, which has yet to participate in the talks.

Shuja saw Pompeo's comments as a change in stance from the US.

"We first and foremost have to put an end to the occupation and then focus on resolving our internal issues".

Afghanistan- As President Donald Trump delivered his State of the Union address in Washington, interest was as keen among those listening in the Middle East as it was among those watching from America's Midwest.

The possibility of a unilateral United States withdrawal from Afghanistan has created a new wave of uncertainty in the region, "which poses yet another challenge to Pakistan", he warned.

"We have enough economic issues of our own to deal with already".

The former US ambassador said there was "positive change" in Pakistan, which Washington and Kabul have long accused of sheltering the Taliban.

Now the newly appointed chief negotiator, Baradar is expected to fly from Pakistan to attend the next round of negotiations in Doha on February 25.

By hosting a meeting between the Taliban and other Afghan delegates, Moscow has greatly contributed to a peace process in Afghanistan, ex-President Hamid Karzai said, denouncing years of "failed" United States military presence and policies.

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