US special envoy to Afghanistan to talk peace with Taliban militants
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US special envoy to Afghanistan to talk peace with Taliban militants

The US State Department announced on Saturday that Special Representative for Afghanistan Reconciliation Zalmay Khalilzad will visit Afghanistan, Belgium, Germany, Pakistan, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) through June 16, noting that he will hold talks with Taliban officials in the Qatari capital of Doha.  According to the announcement, Khalilzad is to meet with the Afghan government and other Afghans, including representatives of civil society and women’s rights groups, to promote negotiations between different Afghan groups to sustain a peace settlement. He will further try to build international support for a peace plan while in Brussels, Berlin, Islamabad and Abu Dhabi. The ongoing peace talks came more than 17 years after the US military invaded Afghanistan to overthrow the ruling Taliban government and to flush out the Saudi- and Pakistani-backed terrorist group at the time, vowing to bring stability to the war-ravaged nation. The Trump administration is currently negotiating with the terror group to facilitate a withdrawal of US troops, though the talks have been met with bipartisan skepticism on Capitol Hill.  The negotiations between Washington and Taliban militants have also failed to make significant progress thus far, though they did raise eyebrows earlier this year when the Pentagon reportedly asked Congress for funds to reimburse the armed group for transportation and other expenses related to attending the peace negotiations. The development comes as Taliban’s leader Mullah Haibatullah Akhundzada vowed earlier on Saturday to continue battling US-led foreign forces in the country until its objectives are fulfilled, stressing that the group did not plan to sit down for talks with the government in Kabul. In an official message Taliban leader further sought an end to decades of war and a government that represented the entire Afghan population, but offered no sign of agreeing to a ceasefire or negotiating with the central government. No one should expect us to pour cold water on the heated battlefronts of Jihad or forget our 40-year sacrifices before reaching our objectives,” he said in the message, adding that the Taliban aimed for “an end to the occupation and establishment of an Islamic system.”

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