by Karen Faulkner, Worthy News Correspondent
(Worthy News) – The US Embassy in Pakistan announced Thursday that Afghanistan’s political leaders are close to starting negotiations with the Taliban about the future of the country, the Military Times reports. The development follows a peace agreement signed between the US and the Taliban in February this year. As part of the deal, US Peace Envoy Zalmay Khalilzad is in the region to help facilitate intra-Afghan negotiations.
Although no date for talks has been set yet, Afghan President Ashraf Ghani said in a statement Wednesday that the talks will start off in Doha, Qatar, where the Taliban have an office.
Under the terms of the deal agreed with the US, the Afghan government must release 5,000 Taliban prisoners according to an approved list. So far the government has released 3,500 captives. The Taliban, in turn, are to free 1,000 government personnel; they have released about 700 so far. In a statement, the Taliban have said all 5,000 of their imprisoned members must be freed before talks can begin.
Because of the rate of COVID-19 infections in Afghanistan, Khalilzad will conduct videoconferences with Afghan leaders rather than travel to Kabul. He will meet with Taliban negotiators in Qatar.
In its statement Thursday the US Embassy said: “Ambassador Khalilzad noted how close the sides are to starting intra-Afghan negotiations and the importance of resolving remaining issues quickly, underscoring the promise peace holds for regional stability and development.”
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