US envoy Zalmay Khalilzad. Photo: AFP

A senior US diplomat is set to lead a large delegation on a six-nation tour, including Afghanistan, to help invigorate that country’s peace process and bring “all Afghan parties together in an intra-Afghan dialogue,” the State Department announced Sunday.

The statement said Zalmay Khalilzad, a former ambassador to Afghanistan who has recently been engaged in extensive talks with the Taliban, would head an interagency delegation from February 10 to 28.

It was unclear whether the group had already left at the time of the statement.

The itinerary will take the US delegation to Belgium, Germany, Turkey, Qatar, Afghanistan and Pakistan, the statement said, adding that Khalilzad would “consult with the Afghan government throughout the trip.”

US-Taliban peace talks have not included the Afghan government, which the Taliban considers Washington-backed puppets, and Khalilzad said recently that intra-Afghan negotiations were essential to progress being made.

The US envoy has in recent months met several times with Taliban officials in Qatar, where the insurgent group’s leaders have an office in Doha, the capital of the Gulf state.

Khalilzad said Friday that he hoped to see a peace agreement signed before Afghanistan’s July presidential elections.

US President Donald Trump has been pushing to end US involvement in Afghanistan, where 14,000 American troops are still deployed. However, Khalilzad stressed that any troop withdrawal would depend on the conditions on the ground.

– with reporting by Agence France-Presse


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