Washington: Donald Trump’s special Afghan envoy Zalmay Khalilzad is travelling to India to coordinate efforts to facilitate an intra-Afghan political settlement, the State Department has announced, a day after the US president discussed with Prime Minister Narendra Modi ways to enhance cooperation in war-torn Afghanistan.
The State Department on Tuesday said Khalilzad will lead an inter-agency delegation to India, China, Afghanistan, and Pakistan from January 8 to January 21. However, country-specific dates of his travel were not announced.
The announcements of his visit to the region came amid reports that Trump plans to withdraw thousands of troops from Afghanistan, which depends on the US and other foreign powers for military support and training.
Khalilzad will meet with senior government officials in each country to facilitate an intra-Afghan political settlement.
This is Khalilzad’s first trip to India after he was appointed as the Special Representative for Afghanistan Reconciliation last year. Since then he has made multiple trips to the region, without being to India.
During a telephonic conversation on Monday evening, Modi and Trump, among other things, discussed increasing their cooperation in war-torn Afghanistan.
Trump last week took a jibe at Modi for funding a “library” in Afghanistan, saying it is of no use in the war-torn country as he criticised India and others for not doing enough for the nation’s security.
India has been actively involved in the reconstruction efforts in war-ravaged Afghanistan. It has committed about $3 billion (Dh11 billion) in assistance to Afghanistan since US-led forces toppled the Taliban regime after the September 11, 2001 attacks.
“The United States supports the desire of the Afghan people and the international community for a political settlement that ends the 40-year conflict and ensures Afghanistan never again serves as a platform for international terrorism,” the State Department said.
Khalilzad will meet with Afghan government officials and other interested parties to support and facilitate an inclusive peace process in Afghanistan, empowering the Afghan people to chart a shared course for their nation’s future, it said.
The State Department noted that Khalilzad continues to coordinate his efforts with the Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, Chief Executive Abdullah Abdullah and other Afghan stakeholders to ensure an intra-Afghan peace process.
It said the American goal is to promote dialogue among Afghans about how to end the conflict and to encourage the parties to come together at the negotiating table to reach a political settlement where every Afghan citizen enjoys equal rights and responsibilities under the rule of law.
During his last trip to the region in December, Khalilzad had reiterated that the only solution to the conflict is for all parties to sit together and reach an agreement on the political future of Afghanistan with mutual respect and acceptance, the State Department said.
The war in Afghanistan is America’s longest overseas military intervention. It has cost Washington nearly $1 trillion and killed tens of thousands of people.