Mullah Baradar released by Pakistan at USA request

US Afghan envoy Zalmay Khalilzad wants peace deal before July vote

US Afghan envoy Zalmay Khalilzad wants peace deal before July vote

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

A former USA ambassador to Afghanistan who is now special envoy in the talks, Khalilzad has, in recent months, held meetings with Taliban officials in Qatar, where the group's senior leaders have an office in the capital Doha.

Khalilzad said the USA would prefer a peace agreement before July "to bring the Taliban also into the process so that peace agreement would facilitate a peaceful election or a peaceful framework for proceedings with regard to the future of Afghanistan". "To be clear, no troop withdrawal timetable exists".

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.

The former Afghan president called the talks a "historic step" and called Moscow's approach "successful and effective". Kabul objected to the meeting, with one army general describing at as a "white coup" against the government.

Trump's administration has accelerated talks for a political settlement in Afghanistan. The ex-president also said he would like to see all foreign troops withdrawing from his country "as soon as possible", even though he admitted that it would likely be a "very hard process".

The sides agreed on an assurance to the global community that Afghanistan would not be used as a terror base against any other nation, and that women had the right to education and work in line with Islamic principles.

On a question regarding the possible formation of an interim government in Afghanistan, he said that the Taliban had neither held any discussions regarding an interim government nor had they proposed such an idea.

Well-placed sources said the United States administration has taken the final decision to pull out of Afghanistan and are willing to go ahead keeping in view the significance of Pakistan's role.

The Moscow gathering was considered a blow to Ghani, as various factions and ethnic groups had put aside their differences in his absence.

Khalilzad said USA withdrawal from Afghanistan could only be sought after a peace agreement is reached.

Shuja saw Pompeo's comments as a change in stance from the US.

"A peace agreement would not be immediately or shortly achieved in the foreseeable future without a comprehensive agreement on these other issues", Khalilzad said, listing among those issues the treatment of Afghan women, who were oppressed under Taliban rule of Afghanistan before the American invasion in 2001.

Critics are skeptical for a number of reasons, primarily because talks have not yet included the Afghan government, which the Taleban considers US-backed puppets. The US invaded Afghanistan in October 2001, accusing the Taliban of harboring Osama Bin Laden, the accused mastermind of the 9/11 terrorist attacks in NY and Washington.

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