Published: Mon, February 11, 2019
Global News | By Stacy Ballard

Mullah Baradar released by Pakistan at U.S. request

Mullah Baradar released by Pakistan at U.S. request

Zalmay Khalilzad, a former ambassador to Afghanistan who has spoken extensively with the Taliban in recent weeks, also stressed that any U.S. troop withdrawal would be dependent on conditions on the ground, and not on any particular timetable.

Weeks after initiating direct talks with the Taliban, wherein the two agreed on a framework of peace agreement, Trump Administration's point person Friday told a Washington audience that these were just a few steps in the direction of peaceful resolution of the conflict in Afghanistan and that they have a long way to go.

Pakistan, he said, favours inter-Afghan dialogue including between the Taliban and the government.

The Taliban had issued a statement to announce Baradar's appointment and a reshuffle in their team to put senior leaders into key positions as the talks with U.S. officials gain momentum.

And this can not be achieved without the help of regional players, in particular Pakistan, Special US Representative Zalmay Khalilzad said in his maiden public appearance before a Washington audience some six months after he was entrusted with this task by the Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.

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"We are after a peace agreement, not a withdrawal agreement". Because peace agreement can allow withdrawal.

Khalilzad was a major player in George W. Bush's administration when the United States first invaded Afghanistan after the 9/11 attacks.

The United States (US) military has stepped up its airstrikes and special operation raids on Taliban leaders and fighters in Afghanistan to give American negotiators leverage in peace talks with the militant group, The New York Times reported Saturday.

A former United States ambassador to Afghanistan who is now special envoy in the talks, Khalilzad has, in recent months, held meetings with Taliban officials in Qatar, where the group's senior leaders have an office in the capital Doha.

He added that "elections make the peace agreement more complicated".

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"We always would like Pakistan, like other countries to do more, but we appreciate what they have done so far and I have indicated and Secretary (of State), (Mike) Pompeo and the president that we want to have good relations with Pakistan, better relations with Pakistan", he said in response to a question.

Additionally, the Taleban have promised not to shelter foreign extremists, but experts say they can not be trusted and even now are helping to hide such militants.

He said that they had eventually even opened a political office in Doha, Qatar in 2013 for this objective, but Washington had been unwilling to negotiate at the time.

A statement issued on behalf of all parties also agreed on the complete withdrawal of foreign troops from Afghanistan.

"A peace agreement would not be immediately or shortly achieved in the foreseeable future without a comprehensive agreement on these other issues", Khalilzad said, listing among those issues the treatment of Afghan women, who were oppressed under Taliban rule of Afghanistan before the American invasion in 2001.

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"But we don't have to wait until then for regional players to play a positive role".

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