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Afghanistan Peace Talks to Open in Qatar, Seeking End to Decades of War


“Of course, we would be very happy if there is immediate permanent cease-fire,” he said, “but the record of such negotiations where violence is the main instrument of one of the parties shows that, I think, giving it up permanently will be difficult.”

After 17 years of fighting, the United States in late 2018 gave in to a stubborn Taliban demand to break the stalemate: talks with the Americans that excluded the Afghan government, which the insurgents insist is a puppet administration.

Mr. Khalilzad, working under pressure from President Trump to strike a deal that would get American troops out, reached an agreement with the insurgents that was criticized by many Afghan officials as having been rushed and giving the Taliban too much without assurances in return.

The troop withdrawal began on the Taliban’s promise that they would negotiate with the Afghan government and not let terrorist groups use Afghan territory as a haven and staging ground for international attacks. But in the months since, some international observers have questioned the Taliban’s commitment to that vow to abandon their allies in Al Qaeda and other such groups.

Guests arrived in Doha for the opening ceremony on Friday, Sept. 11 — 19 years to the day after the Qaeda terrorist attacks on the United States that led to the invasion of Afghanistan, a stark reminder that most of the American hopes for a safe and stable Afghan democracy remain unfulfilled, and perhaps untenable any time soon.

Still, Mr. Khalilzad — who was an adviser to the American government during the Cold War, as the United States was funding insurgents to push Soviet troops out of Afghanistan — said there was still an opportunity for Afghanistan to reach some sort of equilibrium.

“The Afghan tragedy has been not being able to get to an agreement on a formula and then stick to it,” Mr. Khalilzad said. “There was a great victory after the Soviet departure, the Afghans had this great victory. The rest of the world benefited from it a lot: we became the only superpower, Eastern Europe got liberated, Central Asia got freed. But Afghanistan continued this disintegration. The Afghans — they won, but they lost.

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