US hopes for Taliban peace deal next year

US hopes for Taliban peace deal next year
The US has said it hopes to agree a peace deal with the Taliban in 2019.
2 min read
18 November, 2018
The Taliban control around half of Afghanistan [Getty]
The US special envoy to Afghanistan hopes the Taliban will agree a peace deal by April 2019, before crucial presidential elections are held in the war-torn country.

Zalmay Khalilzad said "a peace deal is reached before April 20 next year" when the elections are due to take place, according to Reuters.

He said he was "cautiously optimistic" that peace talks would succeed and follows reports that US diplomats have met with Taliban officials in Qatar.

Khalilzad met Taliban officials in Doha last month - where the militant group operate an office - in a bid by Washington to end the 17-year war in Afghanistan sparked by the US-led invasion of the country in 2001.

He said he hopes the talks will result in "peace and a successful Afghanistan, one that doesn't pose any threats to itself and to the international community".

The Taliban is expected to send a list of demands to Khalilzad, according to the news agency.

Last month, the militant group said its demands include a timetable for US withdrawal from Afghanistan and the release of senior Taliban officials.

A rival peace plan for Afghanistan is being arranged by Russia.

Khalilzad said the Taliban "might bring additional changes to their team of negotiators" before new talks are held.

The Taliban have refused to negotiate with the Kabul government, viewing it as a puppet regime for the US.

Despite reaching out for peace talks, the Taliban has also intensified its attacks on government troops and controls roughly half the country.

A more dangerous Islamic State group affiliate is also operating in Afghanistan and has launched attacks mostly on civilian targets, particularly the country's Shia minority.

The US believes that military pressure on the group could force it to come to the negotiating table.

"We used the term stalemate a year ago and relatively speaking it hasn’t changed much, but... we do believe that the Taliban know that at some point they have to reconcile."