US peace envoy returns to Kabul ahead of Taliban talks

US special envoy Zalmay Khalilzad said on Monday he was in Kabul to meet with Afghan officials ahead of his next round of talks with the Taliban aimed at ending more than 17 years of war.

The Afghan-born US adviser tweeted that he had already met with some government representatives with responsibility for the Afghan peace process.

“We discussed the urgency of making progress on intra-Afghan dialogue,” Khalilzad wrote.

Khalilzad’s last round of talks with the Taliban in Doha was originally slated to last two days in February, but dragged on for 16 days, eventually ending March 12 with Khalilzad saying “real strides” had been made.

On the table were proposals to get foreign armed forces to leave Afghanistan, and the Taliban to guarantee the country cannot be used as a springboard for terror groups to launch any future attacks.

The State Department on Friday said Khalilzad’s trip was “part of an overall effort to facilitate a peace process that brings all Afghan parties together in inclusive intra-Afghan negotiations.”

But so far the talks have not included the Kabul government.

The Taliban have long refused to speak with Kabul, deeming the administration of President Ashraf Ghani – who is seeking re-election this year – puppets of the West.

Khalilzad’s trip has already seen him stop in London and Brussels as he seeks global support for a peace deal.

Last week, he met with representatives from China, Russia and the European Union in Washington.

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