US special envoy discusses Taliban deal with re-elected Afghan president

File photo. Afghan president Mohammad Ashraf Ghani talks with journalists after Eid al-Fitr prayer at the presidential palace in Kabul, Afghanistan, 4 June 2019. [Jawad Jalali/EPA/EFE]

US special envoy Zalmay Khalilzad and Afghan President Ashraf Ghani on Wednesday (19 February) discussed a US deal with Taliban militants on a weeklong reduction in violence, meeting the day after Ghani was declared a winner of a disputed presidential poll.

Ghani’s main rival, Abdullah Abdullah, who came in second, rejected the result and vowed to form his own government, threatening new political turmoil as the United States strives to seal a US troop withdrawal deal with Taliban militants.

The Afghan presidential palace in a statement quoted President Ghani as telling Khalilzad he had held “effective” meetings with local leaders on how the Afghan government would handle the peace process.

The US-Taliban deal was struck in protracted negotiations in the Qatari capital Doha and was announced on Friday after a meeting between US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, Ghani and US Defense Secretary Mark Esper in Munich.

Khalilzad, who has led talks with the Taliban on a US troop withdrawal agreement, briefed Ghani on the steps that will be taken after the reduction in violence agreement comes into force, the presidential palace statement said.

US to withdraw 5,000 troops from Afghanistan, close 5 bases

The United States would withdraw almost 5,000 troops from Afghanistan and close five bases within 135 days under a draft peace accord agreed with the Taliban, the chief US negotiator, Zalmay Khalilzad, said on Monday (2 September).

Afghanistan’s acting interior minister had said on Tuesday that the accord would come into force in the next five days, even as clashes between the Taliban and Afghan security forces continued.

The statement following the Khalilzad-Ghani meeting did not mention the Afghan president’s re-election, which is being disputed by a number of Ghani’s political opponents. The United States has not yet formally congratulated Ghani on his re-election for five more years as president.

The United Nations on Wednesday said it would “encourage the electoral management bodies to address the candidates’ understandable desire to have clarity on decisions taken related to audits and recounts.”

The European Union said it considered the election process to have reached a conclusion.

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