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Despite talks, not yet reached any conclusion to end hostilities: Af Taliban
11 February 2019, 11:24 | Devin Moran
US heightens attacks on Taliban to gain leverage in peace talks: NYT
Instead of withdrawing upon reaching a peace deal, the condition the Taliban are seeking, Khalilzad indicated that the United States would only leave if "there is no threat to our national security from Afghanistan".
He described the present state of negotiations as having taken two or three steps on a long journey.
For the US, the priority was securing a commitment from the Taliban that it would never again allow a terrorist group to use Afghanistan as a staging ground to attack the USA or its allies, and an agreement in principle was reached on that issue.
Pakistan, he said, favours inter-Afghan dialogue including between the Taliban and the government.
"They made it clear to us that we (Taliban) have to talk to the USA and Afghan government", the Taliban leader said.
The Pakistani assistance, which has not been reported in such detail before, also includes exerting pressure on Taliban leaders who fail to cooperate, including by detaining members of the militants' families, the insurgents say.
Mujahid said that while the Taliban do not have a codified manifesto, their "clear" objectives were the end of the occupation of Afghanistan, establishment of an Islamic government, establishment of peace and security, reconstruction of Afghanistan and the provision of administrative services.
"We will not just rely on people's words", he said, adding that there would have to be "enforcement mechanisms", which he did not define.
"The timing of a peace settlement from our point of view is the sooner is better", Khalilzad told an audience at the US Institute of Peace in Washington.
He also served as the US Ambassadors to Afghanistan and Iraq during the Bush Administration.
The United States (US) diplomat leading talks with the Taleban said on Friday he hoped to see a peace deal in place before Afghanistan's July presidential elections, though he cautioned he did not trust America's long-time adversary.
"I would be wary of taking that and extrapolating off that and saying they're now on board with the peace process", said Jason Campbell, who was the Pentagon's Afghanistan country director until past year and is now at the RAND Corporation think tank.
Khalilzad said he sees himself as a "catalyst" to find a formula for Afghans to sit down with each other and work out a road map for a peaceful future.
The Taliban control almost half of Afghanistan, and are more powerful than at any time since the 2001 US-led invasion after the 9/11 terror attacks in 2001.
But the message that they have given me is that they understand that they can not go back.
The US can not be a substitute for decisions that they must make.
The government has criticised the talks from the beginning, by saying that the talks hosted by Russian Federation were against the spirit of Afghan-led and owned peace process.
"We first and foremost have to put an end to the occupation and then focus on resolving our internal issues".
Afghanistan has suffered almost constant conflict since the Soviet invasion of 1979, which was followed by civil war, the Taliban regime, and the U.S. invasion in late 2001.
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