By RFE RL
(RFE/RL) — U.S. special envoy to Afghanistan Zalmay Khalilzad will try to advance a sluggish Afghan peace process on a trip to Qatar, India, and Pakistan, the State Department said on May 6.
“At each stop, he will urge support for an immediate reduction in violence, accelerated timeline for the start of intra-Afghan negotiations, and cooperation among all sides in addressing the COVID-19 pandemic in Afghanistan,” the State Department said.
The State Department said Khalilzad departed on May 5 and would meet with Taliban representatives in the Qatari capital, Doha, to press full implementation of the agreement the two sides signed in February.
In Pakistan and India, regional rivals whose struggle for influence plays out in Afghanistan, Khalilzad will meet with officials to discuss the peace process.
The trip comes as U.S. Defense Secretary Mark Esper said May 5 that the peace deal was “behind schedule” because both the Afghan government and Taliban have failed to live up to their commitments.
Progress on intra-Afghan talks has been hobbled by a political feud between President Ashraf Ghani and his rival Abdullah Abdullah, who both claim to be the leader of the country following a disputed election in September 2019.
The political deadlock comes as the Taliban has ramped up attacks in recent weeks despite a pledge to reduce violence aimed at paving the way for direct talks with Kabul, which was not a party to the US-Taliban deal.
The Taliban had agreed to negotiate directly with the Afghan government by March, but disputes over mutual prisoner releases has delayed talks.
The core deal is for U.S. and foreign troops to withdraw from Afghanistan following an intra-Afghan deal in exchange for guarantees from the Taliban not to allow the country to become a haven for terrorist groups aiming to strike abroad.