Brussels - US Special Representative for Afghanistan Reconciliation Zalmay Khalilzad, who is on a six-nation trip to discuss the Afghan peace process, said Tuesday while meeting with EU and NATO partners in Brussels that their shared purpose is to reach a peace agreement and not a withdrawal agreement, reported ToloNews.

“Our shared purpose is to reach a peace agreement (not a withdrawal agreement) that is worthy of the sacrifices made over decades of war,” Khalilzad tweeted.

Khalilzad said in a tweet he met with EU and NATO partners in Brussels and was encouraged by their strong endorsement of the progress they have made regarding the peace process so far. “We went into Afghanistan together, and together we will determine our future posture, based on conditions we determine with Afghans. We also agreed that jumpstarting the intra-Afghan dialogue is an immediate priority,” Khalilzad tweeted.

Khalilzad is leading an interagency delegation to Belgium, Germany, Turkey, Qatar, Afghanistan and Pakistan from February 10-28, the US State Department said in a statement on Sunday.

“This trip is part of an overall effort to facilitate a peace process that protects US national security interests and brings all Afghan parties together in an intra-Afghan dialogue through which they can determine a path for their country’s future,” it said.

This comes after acting US Secretary of Defence Patrick Shanahan met with President Ashraf Ghani on Monday in Kabul to reaffirm commitment to Afghanistan through the implementation of Trump’s South Asia strategy.

The leaders discussed a broad range of defence issues, including the importance of the US-Afghan security relationship and of achieving a political settlement to the war that ensures Afghanistan is never again used as a safe haven for terrorists, the Pentagon said. “Secretary Shanahan praised the sacrifices made by Afghan and Coalition troops and reaffirmed our continued support to Afghan forces as they lead the fight to defend their country,” according to the Pentagon.

Shanahan arrived unannounced in Afghanistan on Monday to meet with US commanders and Afghan leaders.

TALIBAN FORM NEW TEAM

Taliban on Tuesday announced the formation of a 14-member peace negotiating team ahead of fresh round of peace talks with the US envoy in Doha later this month.

In a statement, the group said that Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, the deputy head of Taliban’s Qatar office, has assigned the team in line with the guidance of group’s leader Mullah Hibatullah Akhundzada.

Taliban’s negotiating team is expected to hold talks with Zalmay Khalilzad on February 25 in Doha.

Reports indicate that Taliban’s chief negotiator Sher Mohammad Abbas Stanakzai will lead the Taliban team. Stanakzai previously served as head of Taliban’s Qatar office.

The other members of the Taliban’s negotiating team are Mawlawi Ziaurrahman Madani, ex-Taliban governor for Kunduz, Maelawi Abdul Salam Hanafi, former minister of education, Shahabuddin Delawar, member of Taliban’s Qatar office who also served as Taliban’s envoy to UAE, Mullah Abdul Latif Mansour, ex-minister of agriculture, Mullah Abdul Manan Omari, brother of Taliban’s founding leader Mullah Omar, Mawlawi Amir Khan Mutaqi, ex-minister of information and culture who now serves as head of Hibatullah’s office, Mullah Mohammad Fazel Mazloom, former deputy minister of defense, Mullah Khairullah Khairkhaw, ex-governor of Herat, Mawlawi Mati-ul-Haq, member of Taliban’s leadership, Mullah Noorullah Noori, Mawlawi Mohammad Nabi Omari, member of Qatar office, Mullah Abdul Haq, ex-deputy head of Taliban’s intelligence and Mohammad Anas Haqqani, brother of Sirajuddin Haqqani and member of Haqqani network.

But, Anas Haqqani is currently under the custody of the Afghan government. Taliban has asked for his immediate release. But, the Afghan government has said that Anas Haqqani is in jail and that so far no decision has been made for his release.

Meanwhile, there are some reports that Khalilzad has had a meeting with Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar in Karachi. But Afghan government said that in the fresh round of talks between the US and the Taliban the priority will be the issue of talks between the Afghan government and the Taliban.

“We welcome any move for peace. We also support Mr (Zalmay) Khalilzad’s peace efforts and watch it closely that how it leads to peace,” said Mohammad Mohaqiq, second deputy chief executive.

Clash kills 10 militants

Xinhua adds: At least 10 militants have been killed as clash flared up between government forces and the Taliban outfit in Khawja Ghar district of the northern Takhar province, police spokesman in the province Abdul Khalil Asir said Tuesday.

The clash, according to Asir, broke out early Tuesday in some villages of Khawja Ghar district and parts of the neighbouring Dasht-e-Qala region and so far 10 militants have been killed, and several others injured.

Three security personnel have also sustained injuries in the fighting, the official added. Taliban insurgents haven’t commented yet.

Earlier, a mortar mine allegedly fired by militants struck a house in Dasht-e-Qala district in the morning, claiming the lives of three people and injuring eight others from a family.