Speaking to journalists in Kabul on Sunday US Special Representative for Afghanistan Reconciliation Zalmay Khalilzad said the Taliban believes it cannot win the war militarily.
Khalilzad said he hopes a peace deal is reached before April 20 presidential elections and called on the Taliban to use it as an opportunity.
He said he believes there is the potential for peace in Afghanistan and that the end state of peace talks would be ‘peace, a successful Afghanistan, one that doesn’t pose any threats to itself and to the international community’.
He also said that the Taliban might bring changes to its team of negotiators and that he remains “cautiously optimistic” and “hopeful” about the talks.
Khalilzad’s chat with journalists came after he returned to Kabul following three days of talks with the Taliban in Qatar, a Taliban official and another individual close to the group told Associated Press on Sunday.
The two individuals said Khairullah Khairkhwa, the former Taliban governor of Herat, and Mohammed Fazl, a former Taliban military chief, attended the marathon talks. The two individuals spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the sensitive negotiations, AP reported.
A third individual with knowledge of the discussions said the Taliban pressed for a postponement of next year’s presidential elections and the establishment of an interim government under a neutral leadership. AP reported that Abdul Sattar Sirat, an ethnic Tajik and Islamic scholar, was suggested as a candidate to lead an interim administration.
AP reported that the individual, who also spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the talks, said Khalilzad wants to reach a settlement within six months, a timescale the Taliban said was too short.
Khalilzad has been touring the region in recent days, and reportedly met with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani on Sunday. AP stated he is expected to press Ghani to cobble together his own negotiating team, which could prove difficult given the deep divisions within the government.