Middle East/North Africa

US pushes ahead with Taliban peace deal despite reported involvement in carrying out bounties on US troops

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The U.S.’s envoy to Afghanistan signaled Saturday that Washington intends to continue pursuing a peace deal with the Taliban despite recent reports of its involvement in carrying out Russian bounties on U.S. and coalition servicemembers in the country.

Zalmay Khalilzad, who has been carrying out negotiations with the militant group and has pushed for the implementation of a peace deal signed in February, was completing a week-long trip to Uzbekistan, Pakistan and Qatar, where the Taliban negotiation team is headquartered. Khalilzad sent a series of tweets Saturday touting the economic benefits of the February agreement, saying implementing the deal would benefit all parties. 

“In follow on mtg w/ the Taliban, we underscored the econ development oppts that will follow a sustainable peace. We agreed developing plans in support of peace can never start too early, assuming the 2 sides can overcome final hurdles on the path to intra-Afghan negotiations,” Khalilzad tweeted.

“Mullah Baradar and his team were engaged and the Taliban recognize all Afghans will have to make compromises in order to draw in the required investment in Afghanistan’s future,” he added, referring to the Taliban’s negotiation team.

The negotiations have taken place over the backdrop of a series of bombshell reports that detailed bounties Moscow offered the Taliban for it to carry out attacks on U.S. and coalition troops in Afghanistan, which reportedly led to the deaths of several American troops.

President Trump has called the reports a “hoax,” and congressional Republicans have claimed there was no consensus over the intelligence that informed the reports, though Democrats have sounded the alarm over the administration’s inaction over the alleged bounties. 

The Pentagon also sounded alarms this week when it released a report questioning the Taliban’s intention to sever ties with Al-Qaida. The peace deal negotiated in February mandates the group fight against terrorist organizations and ensure they do not use Afghanistan as a base for operations against U.S. interests or its allies in the future. 

Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid denied contacts with Al-Qaida in the Indian Subcontinent to The Associated Press

While the U.S. and the Taliban have said they are committed to carrying out the peace deal, uncertainty still looms over the crucial intra-Afghan negotiations between the Taliban and the government in Kabul, with the two sides hung up over the number of prisoners they intend to release.

Tags Afghan peace process Afghanistan–Pakistan relations Donald Trump russian bounties Taliban Taliban peace deal War in Afghanistan

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