U.S. Afghan envoy to kick off intensive trip of 6 countries

Afghanistan's President Ashraf Ghani attends a two-day conference on Afghanistan at the United Nations in Geneva Switzerland

Explaining the Taliban position on refusing to talk to the government in Kabul, Mr. Mujahid said that any talks with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani regime would have symbolic ramifications.

US Special Representative for Afghanistan Reconciliation Zalmay Khalilzad left Washington on Sunday on yet another peace mission that includes talks in Afghanistan, Pakistan and Qatar.

The emphasis on bringing "all Afghan parties together" appeared crucial.

Although the Afghan government was kept out of the Moscow talks held last week, an official from Afghanistan's High Peace Council said that some parts of the Moscow resolution would be added to their agenda.

At an event in Washington on February 8, Khalilzad told an audience that he expected a final deal could be reached before Afghanistan's presidential election in July.

There are about 14,000 USA troops now deployed in Afghanistan, and the US administration reportedly plans to bring half of them home. But Khalilzad emphasized that any troop withdrawal would depend on conditions on the ground.

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The latest push for a peace came after President Donald Trump wrote a letter to Prime Minister Imran Khan, seeking Pakistan's help for the negotiated settlement of the Afghan conflict. The correspondence came after Trump accused Pakistan of "doing nothing" despite receiving "billions of dollars" in aid.

Patrick Shanahan, the United States acting secretary of defence, has arrived in Afghanistan on an unannounced visit. Over the past few weeks, a USA delegation has been engaged in talks with the Afghan officials trying to prepare for a U.S. pullout.

During a visit to the eastern Afghan province of Nangarhar on Sunday, President Ghani said he was offering the Taliban an office in Afghanistan because he wanted the peace talks to be held on the Afghan soil. "The Afghans have to decide what Afghanistan looks like in the future".

The Trump administration's special envoy for Afghanistan is returning to the country after stops in Europe and the Middle East for an extended diplomatic tour aimed at pushing a US peace initiative.

Shanahan will meet General Scott Miller, the top USA and North Atlantic Treaty Organisation commander in Afghanistan, during his visit. "I think the presence we want in Afghanistan is what assures our homeland defence and supports regional stability".

The resolution includes a demand for the withdrawal of all foreign troops, support to Doha talks, removing Taliban members from the United Nations blacklist, the release of their prisoners and legitimising Taliban's Qatar office.

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