- The Washington Times - Thursday, May 21, 2020

The U.S. Special Envoy to Afghanistan Zalmay Khalilzad has insisted that violence throughout the country must be reduced in order to continue peace negotiations.

Mr. Khalilzad this week met with Taliban representatives in Doha, Qatar, as well as Afghan leadership in Kabul in an effort to save peace talks that have crumbled in recent weeks due to ongoing violence.

“On violence, I told the Talibs violence by all sides must fall,” Mr. Khalilzad tweeted Thursday. “Innocent Afghans have borne far too much and for too long the costs of this war.”

Just last week, Afghanistan saw two fatal attacks carried out during a funeral procession and at a maternity ward in a Kabul hospital.

U.S. officials believe both were carried out by the Islamic State, not the Taliban, as previously believed by the Afghan government.

Mr. Khalilzad tweeted that during his meeting with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, “we agreed that violence is much too high and there is a need to move urgently to reduce it by all sides.”

He explained that “all sides have implementation requirements on all fronts including on prisoner releases by the Afghan government and the Taliban.”

Led by Mr. Khalilzad, the U.S. struck an “understanding” with the Taliban at the end of February to reduce violence and begin peace negotiations with the Afghan government, beginning with the release of prisoners of both the Taliban and the Afghan government.

Since March 1, the Taliban has carried out roughly 55 attacks per day, according to the Afghan National Security Council. The Pentagon’s Office of the Special Inspector General for Afghan Reconstruction has said the significant uptick in March attacks was “above seasonal norms.”

Mr. Khalilzad last week said that the Taliban has implemented their promise to not attack U.S. and coalition forces, despite the ongoing violence, and has not carried out attacks in major cities, as part of the deal.

But, he said that the Taliban continues to violate the spirit of the agreement as violence has not been drastically reduced.

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