U.S. envoy hopes for peace deal with Taliban in 2019


Ambassador Khalilzad cautiously expressed optimisms regarding the reconciliation between the Afghan government and Taliban and said he expects a breakthrough until April of 2019.

On November 17, U.S. General Joseph Dunford, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said the Taliban, which controls more territory than any time since the U.S. -led invasion in 2001, is "not losing" and there is no "military solution" to ending the war.

The report offered little support for the Trump administration's assertions that its revised war strategy, announced in August 2017, is bringing the Afghan government and the Taliban insurgency closer to peace and reconciliation. USA officials could not immediately be reached for comment as the State Department has refused to comment on reported talks with the Taliban.

At a meeting with several civil society organizations on Saturday, Ghani said the Afghan youth needs to play a significant role in the peace process as any achievements, or otherwise, will affect them in the long term, the presidential palace said in a statement.

"Without going into detail here, we do believe the Taliban know that at some point they do have to reconcile", he said.

But Khalilzad's public statement that the Taliban believe they will "not win militarily" angered senior members of the group, who warned US officials against mixed messages that could muddle the peace process.

Afghanistan's Taliban has long refused US demands to negotiate with the Western-backed government in Kabul.

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The U.S. administration now appears focused on reaching a political settlement with the Taliban, and has given in to a number of the group's longstanding demands, beginning with the holding of direct talks.

The U.S. has about 14,000 troops in Afghanistan.

Khalilzad returned to Kabul on Sunday after spending three days in Qatar for discussions with the Taliban's political office representatives there.

On recent elections in Afghanistan, Dunford claimed that the election has concluded successfully, and noted the importance of presidential election due next year.

Dunford, the top US military officer, said during a discussion at a security forum in Halifax, Canada, that the United States and its North Atlantic Treaty Organisation allies were working to leverage military, political, and economic pressure to convince the Taliban to negotiate an end to the war.

The US special envoy to Afghanistan is leading diplomatic efforts to persuade the Taliban to engage in negotiations with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani. Both were former inmates at the United States prison in Guantanamo Bay.