Despite talks, not yet reached any conclusion to end hostilities: Af Taliban

US Afghan envoy Zalmay Khalilzad wants peace deal before July vote

Five civilians were freed from a Taliban prison after the Afghan army waged an operation overnight in northern Kunduz province, authorities said Friday.

Islamabad, running short of foreign exchange reserves and in talks with the International Monetary Fund over what would be its 13th bailout since the 1980s, says it can not afford to see Afghanistan slide into chaos just as Pakistan is trying to attract foreign investors to shore up its own economy.

U.S. President Donald Trump has repeatedly signaled his intention to wind down America's longest conflict, declaring Tuesday in his State of the Union address that "great nations do not fight endless wars".

Khalilzad repeatedly stressed the United States would not leave Afghanistan without enforcement mechanisms in place to ensure Afghanistan does not become a terrorist safe haven.

He also suggested that he didn't believe anything that the Taliban has said, insisting that the United States "do not trust the words of any of the protagonists" in Afghanistan.

The envoy, who is a former US 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.

A statement issued on behalf of all parties also agreed on the complete withdrawal of foreign troops from Afghanistan.

"It will be better for Afghanistan if we could get a peace agreement before the election, which is scheduled in July", Khalilzad said, adding that there remained "a lot of work" to do.

He added that he welcomed Moscow's role in talks.

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.

"Afghans must sit across the table with each other and come to an agreement about the future of their country", Khalilzad said. He said he wants those intra-Afghan negotiations to start immediately.

Noting that Mullah Baradar, now based in Doha, was already facilitating the US-Taliban talks, the US envoy said that his role had also been recognised by former Afghanistan president Hamid Karzai and his successor President Ashraf Ghani.

He said the Taliban are unwilling to negotiate with the Afghan government, but added there are "indications" that they would be willing to do so in a "multiparty arrangement". So, the time has come, they say for an inclusive dialogue leading to an inclusive piece, he said.

Trump's administration has accelerated talks for a political settlement in Afghanistan.

They "called for the protection of freedom of speech in line with Islamic principles, and to undertake efforts to attract global assistance for the reconstruction of Afghanistan's infrastructure". "They may be part of a power-sharing arrangement in Afghanistan".

Pakistan's role in the peace negotiations is a delicate one, with Islamabad seeking to avoid demonstrating the kind of broad influence over the Taliban that Washington has long accused it of having. But he said there are ongoing discussions about arranging some sort of cease-fire.

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