U.S. Afghan envoy to kick off intensive trip of 6 countries

U.S. Special Representative for Afghan Reconciliation Zalmay Khalilzad is lead an interagency delegation to Belgium, Germany, Turkey, Qatar, Afghanistan and Pakistan from February 10 to 28, U.S. State Department said in a statement on Sunday.

Khalilzad's trip is part of an overall effort to facilitate a peace process that brings all Afghan parties together in an intra-Afghan dialogue, the statement said.

Khalilzad will also consult with the Afghan government during the trip.

At an event in Washington on February 8, Khalilzad told an audience that he expected a final deal could be reached before Afghanistan's presidential election in July.

Khalilzad, the former U.S. ambassador to Kabul, had a six-day consultation with Afghan Taliban last month in Qatar. The U.S. envoy said significant progress on vital issues was made during the meetings.

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However, he pointed out "a number of issues left to work out," saying that an agreement "must include an intra-Afghan dialogue and comprehensive ceasefire."

Although the progress in Qatar was hopeful, analysts believed that reaching a final agreement is far from guaranteed, saying the Taliban still refuses to negotiate a political settlement with the Afghan government.

There are about 14,000 U.S. troops currently deployed in Afghanistan, and the U.S. administration reportedly plans to bring half of them home.

The death toll of U.S. service members in Afghanistan has surpassed 2,400 since the United States invaded the country in 2001.

Source(s): Xinhua News Agency