US hopes to reach peace deal with Taliban before July elections

Washington: U.S. Special Representative for Afghanistan Reconciliation, Zalmay Khalilzad, on Friday (local time) hoped that the Taliban reaches a peace agreement with the United States before the Afghan Presidential elections slated to be held on July 20.

“It would be better for Afghanistan if we could get a peace agreement before the election,” The Hill quoted Khalilzad as saying.

“If there is no progress on the peace track, elections will take place, and we are doing what we can to support the preparations for credible elections,” he added.

Despite the long-delayed election schedule, the US envoy said that negotiations between the US and the Taliban can make significant progress in achieving the deal.

“I understand that peace processes are not a straight line. There could be setbacks,” he noted.
“Between now and July, there is sufficient time, I believe, where we could reach an agreement. But at least if we have significant progress, that will have a good impact with regard to the future and including the elections,” said Khalilzad.

Khalilzad had said the Taliban would guarantee that Afghanistan will never be used as a base for terrorism in return for a full American withdrawal from the country and that Taliban concessions must include a ceasefire and agreement to hold talks with the Afghan government.

During his State of the Union address on February 5 (local time), President Trump advocated the “progress” in negotiations, saying that it means “we will be able to reduce our troop presence and focus on counter-terrorism.”

However, the Taliban does not consider the withdrawal being dependent on the American conditions for a ceasefire or direct talks between the Taliban and the Afghan government, signalling that Washington’s demands may be far-fetched.