KABUL (Reuters) – U.S. adviser on Afghanistan Zalmay Khalilzad arrived in Kabul to hold the first round of talks with Afghan leaders since being appointed an envoy to lead peace efforts with the Taliban and end the 17-year war, Afghan officials said on Sunday.
Last month Khalilzad, 67, an Afghan-born former U.S. ambassador to Kabul and Iraq, joined the U.S. State Department team to lead the reconciliation effort and peace talks with the Taliban.
A spokesman for Afghan President Ashraf Ghani said Khalilzad met with Ghani on Sunday and he is expected to meet senior ministers and top diplomats in Kabul on Monday.
A senior government official said Khalilzad will be travelling to Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, Pakistan, Qatar as part of a 10-day trip in an attempt to bring the Taliban to the negotiating table.
Khalilzad’s appointment last month highlighted the U.S.administration’s fresh efforts to convince the Taliban leadership to participate in the Afghan peace process, despite a surge in attacks by the militant group.
Khalilzad’s knowledge of Afghanistan’s main languages, culture and politics could help him engage with all the stakeholders in the peace process in addition to his experience advising or working for four U.S. administrations.
But his visit comes as the Taliban and the Islamic State group ramp up attacks across the country two weeks before the country is set to hold long-delayed parliamentary polls.
In the latest incident, Taliban fighters killed at least 10 policemen in a district in central Afghanistan and blocked arterial highways.
(Reporting by Rupam Jain; editing by Emelia Sithole-Matarise)