US special envoy for Afghanistan to visit in May for peace process
After skipping India on his last two multi-nation tours, the US special representative for Afghanistan reconciliation, Zalmay Khalilzad, will travel to New Delhi during May 6-7 for consultations aimed at building support for the peace process.
While in India next week, Khalilzad is expected to hold talks with interlocutors at a level similar to his discussions during his last visit in January, people familiar with developments said on Monday. The meetings will give both sides an opportunity to exchange views on the latest developments in Afghanistan as well as Khalilzad’s talks with the Taliban.
In January, Khalilzad had met external affairs minister Sushma Swaraj and foreign secretary Vijay Gokhale. He had also met former Afghan president Hamid Karzai on the margins of the annual Raisina Dialogue, a multilateral conference held in Delhi.
Khalilzad skipped India during a multi-nation tour from March 25 to April 10 and an earlier tour in February. This created an impression in some quarters in New Delhi that he was keeping India out of the loop and aligning with Pakistan for the talks with the Taliban.
On Monday, Khalilzad and the principal deputy assistant secretary for South and Central Asian Affairs, Alice Wells, held delegation-level talks in Islamabad with a Pakistani inter-agency team led by Aftab Khokhar, additional secretary (Americas) in the Foreign Office. Khalilzad spent the weekend in Kabul, where he met President Ashraf Ghani and CEO Abdullah Abdullah.
Before coming to India, the US envoy will travel to Qatar for negotiations with the Taliban to “reach a consensus on core national security issues and urge their participation in an inclusive intra-Afghan dialogue”, the US state department said.
Khalilzad’s talks in New Delhi will help build international support for the Afghan peace process to ensure “any peace settlement...will be sustainable”.
There has been growing concern about recent developments in Afghanistan, including the Taliban’s spring offensive launched on April 12 and the
failure to agree on a ceasefire despite several rounds of talks between the US envoy and the militants.
Khalilzad has criticised the Taliban’s latest offensive as “reckless” and “irresponsible”, especially since it came at a time when the “Afghan people have clearly voiced their desire for peace”.