The US’s special envoy for Afghanistan Zalmay Khalilzad is traveling to press for intra-Afghan talks, the US State Department said on Saturday, and he plans to visit five nations.
Khalilzad departed on July 24 for Kabul, Afghanistan; Sofia, Bulgaria; Oslo, Norway; Islamabad, Pakistan; and Doha, Qatar, the US State Department said.
In Doha and Kabul, Khalilzad will press for resolution of the remaining issues ahead of intra-Afghan negotiations, specifically final prisoner exchanges and reduced violence, according to the statement.
In Islamabad, he will seek Pakistani support in the effort to advance intra-Afghan negotiations.
In Oslo and Sofia, Ambassador Khalilzad will update NATO Allies on the Afghan peace process, it said.
“The parties are closer than ever to the start of Intra-Afghan Negotiations, the key next step to ending Afghanistan’s 40-year long war,” the statement said, adding that “although significant progress has been made on prisoner exchanges, the issue requires additional effort to fully resolve.”
Khalilzad, while speaking at a virtual event organized by the US Institute of Peace, said that the intra-Afghan talks have never been so close.
He was joined by the Afghan ambassador to the US, Roya Rahmani, Uzbekistan’s ambassador to the US, Javlon Vakhabov, and Kazakhstan’s ambassador to the US, Erzhan Kazykhanov.
Khalilzad said this is a defining moment for peace in Afghanistan, adding that “This is an important moment for Afghanistan and for the region–perhaps a defining moment.”
Under the US-Taliban peace deal that was signed in Doha, the Taliban demanded the release of 5,000 inmates, and the Afghan government has so far released 4,245.
In exchange, the Taliban has released over 860 government hostages, out of 1,000 total mentioned in agreement.