US special envoy to attend Afghan peace talks in Moscow

Taliban and government of Afghan President Ashraf Ghani have agreed to attend meeting in Russian capital on Thursday.

Zalmay Khalilzad, The US peace envoy leading the peace talks with the Taliban [Sorin Furcoi/ Al Jazeera]
US special envoy to Afghanistan, Zalmay Khalilzad, will attend the conference in Moscow on Thursday [File: Sorin Furcoi/Al Jazeera]

The United States’ special envoy for Afghanistan reconciliation will attend a summit in Moscow later this week to advance the Afghan peace process, the US State Department said on Monday, as a May 1 deadline to withdraw US troops from the country approaches.

Zalmay Khalilzad will attend the conference on Thursday, US State Department deputy spokeswoman Jalina Porter told reporters.

The meeting will “complement all other international efforts to support the Afghanistan peace process and also reflects the international community’s concerns about progress to date”, Porter said.

The Taliban and the government of Afghan President Ashraf Ghani have agreed to attend the conference in Russia, which is seeking to raise its profile in the Afghan peace efforts. China and Pakistan also were invited.

The Taliban on Monday said it intends to send a 10-person, high-level delegation, led by chief negotiator Mullah Baradar Akhund, to the meeting in the Russian capital.

It is one of a series of international gatherings aiming to break an impasse in talks in Qatar between the Taliban and a delegation that includes Afghan government officials to end decades of conflict.

Turkey recently said it plans to host another round of Afghan peace talks in Istanbul in April.

The Biden administration earlier this month proposed replacing the current Afghan government with an interim administration until a new constitution is agreed upon and elections are held.

On March 12, State Department spokesman Ned Price said the US intends to play “a support role” in the peace negotiations.

“And that is precisely what Ambassador Khalilzad is doing, because we recognise that this process has to be Afghan-owned, has to be Afghan-led,” Price told reporters during a news briefing.

But a Taliban spokesman has expressed scepticism over the US proposal, saying transitional governments have proven ineffective and that the group does not believe an interim government could deal with the country’s challenges.

“One need only look at our country’s past experiences over the last 40 years and the wars it has witnessed,” Muhammad Naim told Al Jazeera in an exclusive interview on Sunday.

“Transitional governments were formed after the American occupation, some of them transitional, others participatory, but none of them have solved the country’s problems,” Naim said.

The US faces a May 1 deadline to withdraw its remaining 2,500 soldiers from Afghanistan under a February 2020 deal reached between the Trump administration and the Taliban.

The Biden administration has said it is reviewing that agreement.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies