U.S. envoy: Pakistan freed Taliban leader at U.S. request

US Afghan envoy Zalmay Khalilzad wants peace deal before July vote

Speaking at the US Institute of Peace on Friday, Khalilzad said "Between now and July there is sufficient time I believe where we could reach an agreement", Khalilzad said when asked if a deal could be reached by the Afghan presidential election.

Khalilzad said he has pressed the Taliban to agree to a permanent cease-fire as a step toward ending the war, but they have resisted, arguing that it would remove their leverage and reduce the Afghan government's incentive to make concessions in direct negotiations.

Khalilzad confirmed a framework deal is already in place, though he downplayed this, saying major hurdles remain, and also downplayed the chances of U.S. troops actually leaving the country in the near term.

Explaining the Taliban position on refusing to talk to the government in Kabul, Mujahid said that any talks with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani regime would have symbolic ramifications.

Critics are skeptical for a number of reasons, primarily because talks have not yet included the Afghan government, which the Taleban considers US-backed puppets.

The Pakistani assistance, which has not been reported in such detail before, also includes exerting pressure on Taliban leaders who fail to cooperate, including by detaining members of the militants' families, the insurgents say.

An Afghan analyst, Ahmad Saeedi, said rift within the government and among political parties "will affect Afghanistan and its peace process".

Zalmay Khalilzad, the US envoy for Afghanistan reconciliation, said Friday that he and Taliban negotiators have struck an agreement, in principle, which could pave the way for at least some American servicemembers to exit Afghanistan, where they've been fighting for 17 years.

He said that talks between two opposing powers are meant to achieve a mutual resolution to outstanding issues and the re-establishment of peace and stability. "We have already realized that it is just impossible", he told Sputnik.

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He also served as the US Ambassadors to Afghanistan and Iraq during the Bush Administration.

Khalilzad said he sees himself as a "catalyst" to find a formula for Afghans to sit down with each other and work out a road map for a peaceful future.

Mr Khalilzad, who acknowledged that Pakistan had released a senior Taliban leader Mullah Baradar on his request to facilitate the peace talks, said that Pakistan could play a very crucial in the reconciliation process with the Taliban.

The US can not be a substitute for decisions that they must make.

"We always would like Pakistan, like other countries to do more, but we appreciate what they have done so far and I have indicated (as did) Secretary (of State), (Mike) Pompeo and the president that we want to have good relations with Pakistan, better relations with Pakistan", he said.

But the message that they have given me is that they understand that they can not go back.

The roots of the conflict in Afghanistan is not only in Afghanistan but also in the broader region.

The government has criticised the talks from the beginning, by saying that the talks hosted by Russian Federation were against the spirit of Afghan-led and owned peace process.

"But we don't have to wait until then for regional players to play a positive role".

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