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The two sides have been discussing an agreement for almost a year, in which some 14,000 U.S. forces would withdraw from Afghanistan.
The United States special envoy to Afghanistan Zalmay Khalilzad is heading to Qatar and the Afghan capital to resume the latest round of peace talks aimed at ending almost two decades of U.S. military invasion.
According to the State Department, in Doha Khalilzad will resume talks with the Taliban “as part of an overall effort to facilitate a peace process that ends the conflict in Afghanistan.”
The U.S. representative will then travel to Kabul to consult with the Afghan government on the peace process and encourage full preparation for intra-Afghan negotiations.
In all this, the Afghan government, led by Ashraf Ghani, has been sidelined, as Khalilzad announced on July 28 that intra-Afghan negotiations between the government and key players will take place after the U.S. reaches a deal with the Taliban.
On Tuesday morning, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo told CNBC television that a deal was possible if the current level of violence in the country could be significantly reduced.
Last week both the Taliban and the U.S. left Qatar without a peace deal, as both sides said they would consult with their leaderships on the next steps.
We must accelerate the #AfghanPeaceProcess including intra-Afghan negotiations. Success here will put Afghans in a much stronger position to defeat ISIS.
— U.S. Special Representative Zalmay Khalilzad (@US4AfghanPeace)
August 18, 2019
The two sides have been discussing an agreement for almost a year, in which some 14,000 U.S. and about 8,000 NATO forces would withdraw from Afghanistan and the Taliban would guarantee the country would not revert to being a hub for “globalterrorism.”
However, last week Ashraf Ghani said that the country’s “future cannot be decided outside, whether in the capital cities of our friends, nemeses or neighbors. The fate of Afghanistan will be decided here in this homeland.”
The head of state insists that elections planned for Sept. 28 will give the next government a powerful mandate to decide the country’s future. But the U.S. is seeking a peace deal by Sept. 1, weeks before the vote.
Washington’s Longest Conflict Rages On
The Taliban, who retook control of half the country, dismiss the elections as a sham and warned Afghans to avoid both campaign rallies and the polls, as they won’t “talk to the Kabul administration as a government,” seeing they consider it a U.S. pawn.
The war in Afghanistan is Washington’s longest conflict in its history. It was started after the September 11 attacks in New York City when the U.S. invaded Afghanistan as part of the so-called "war on terror" to dismantle Al-Qaeda by removing the Taliban from power.
However, after a short-run removal, the Taliban regrouped between 2003 and 2008, to fight back and retake most of the country. The U.S. government now has found themselves in the position to broker a deal with the Taliban.
Almost US$975 billion has been spent and approximately 220,000 people have died.