“This is a historic opportunity to end a forty-year war that has no military solution and kills too many Afghans,” Khalilzad said.
“The road to get here has been long and will remain difficult. No important achievement is ever easy. It is now the responsibility of Afghan leaders to capitalize on this moment and end this brutal and mindless war.”
He said there would be no political settlement without compromise and that recent Afghan history shows that seeking a monopoly of power and enforcing one’s ideology by force leads to conflict and makes the country vulnerable to interference by others.
Khalilzad’s statement came after a host of announcements, including one by US President Donald Trump that talks would start Saturday.
Khalilzad has since 2018 worked hard to bring the Afghan government and the Taliban to the peace talks table and finally in February clinched a deal with the Taliban to start the peace talks process.
It was a conditions-based deal that included the release by the Afghan government of 5,000 Taliban prisoners, the release by the Taliban of 1,000 Afghan government employees, a drawdown of troops by the US and the closure of five US military bases.
All conditions have been met following the transfer of the six Taliban prisoners to Qatar.
The US’s secretary of state, Mike Pompeo, has meanwhile left the US for Doha where he will attend the opening ceremony of the historic talks.
In an announcement on Twitter, Afghan President Ashraf Ghani said Haneef Atmar, Acting Minister of Foreign Affairs; Abdul Salam Rahimi, the President’s Special Representative on Peace Affairs; and Seyed Sa’adat Mansour Naderi, State Minister for Peace Affairs will represent the Afghan government.
Ghani wished the negotiating team success in “their mission to bring sustainable peace and stability to the country, which is the long-awaited aspiration of the people of Afghanistan.”
The High Council for National Reconciliation also stated that a delegation headed by its chairman Abdullah Abdullah would depart Kabul on Friday for the opening ceremony.
The council said it “hopes that after a long wait, talks will lead to permanent peace & stability & an end to war.”
NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg was another who welcomed the announcement and said “ all parties should seize this historic opportunity & build on the gains made with so much sacrifice. NATO remains committed to Afghanistan’s long-term security.”
The announcement came just hours after the group, of six “high-risk” Taliban prisoners, was transferred from Kabul to Doha on Thursday afternoon.
The fate of the six, which the Taliban wanted released, had been a stumbling block in the way of starting talks.
However, an agreement was reached between the government, the Taliban and Qatar, that this batch of prisoners would be transferred to Qatar where they will be held in a secure facility.
This comes after a number of countries, including Australia and France, objected to their release on the grounds of them having killed foreign nationals.
Ghani was also hesitant to release them and said recently they had masterminded some of Afghanistan’s worst attacks and that some were drug kingpins.