The US envoy to Afghanistan is traveling to Turkey and the region to advance talks to end the conflict


© Reuters. The US special envoy Zalmay Khalilzad attends a press conference following the Afghan peace conference in Moscow


WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The US special envoy for Afghanistan, Zalmay Khalilzad, has traveled to Turkey and the region, the US State Department said on Saturday to encourage the Afghan parties to negotiate to end the conflict in the country accelerate.

President Joe Biden decides whether to meet the May 1 withdrawal deadline for the last 3,500 American troops in Afghanistan, set under former President Donald Trump under a February 2020 agreement with the Taliban.

Biden’s government has sought international pressure on the Taliban and the US-backed government of Afghan President Ashraf Ghani to reach a peace agreement and ceasefire before the deadline.

“He will involve the two sides in their preparatory efforts to negotiate a political settlement that will lead to a lasting ceasefire and a lasting and just peace,” the State Department said in a statement, adding that Khalilzad left for the talks on Thursday .

The Taliban said Friday they would resume hostilities against foreign forces – which ended under the US-Taliban deal – if left beyond the deadline.

Biden said Thursday it was difficult to meet the deadline, which also requires the withdrawal of around 7,000 Allied forces.

The Taliban have said they are committed to what they have called the “most sensible and shortest route” to ending the 20-year war in Afghanistan – America’s longest-running foreign conflict.

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