US envoy for Afghanistan Zalmay Khalilzad left for a trip on Friday, where he is expected to visit Afghanistan and four other nations to promote the Afghan peace process and push for intra-Afghan talks between the Taliban and the US-backed government.
According to the State Department, Khalilzad will also visit Doha, which was the site of the US-Taliban talks that led to the peace deal signed in February. Khalilzad is expected to make a stop in Islamabad, where he will seek Pakistani support for intra-Afghan talks. The envoy will also visit Norway and Bulgaria to update NATO allies on the peace process.
On Sunday, Afghan President Ashraf Ghani said the government will not enter talks with the Taliban from a position of weakness, and said the government will not be compromised in the negotiations. “I will not compromise on the republic. I will not compromise on Afghanistan. We are proud of the republic,” Ghani said.
While violence between the government and the Taliban continues, both sides have signaled their willingness to begin intra-Afghan talks. The process has been delayed by a prisoner exchange agreed to in the peace deal, with the Kabul government dragging its feet to release captured Taliban.
The government has released most of the 5,000 Taliban inmates it was required to release under the deal, but some remain behind bars. Last week, a Taliban spokesman said the group would be ready to begin talks after the Muslim holiday Eid al-Adha if the prisoner swaps were complete.