KABUL -- The U.S. envoy on an Afghanistan peace initiative has met with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani and Chief Executive Abdullah Abdullah in Kabul, a day after he held talks in Qatar with Taliban leaders.
Zalmay Khalilzad, the Afghan-born U.S. adviser and former U.S. ambassador to Afghanistan, briefed Ghani and Abdullah on October 13 about his meetings with senior ministers and top diplomats in four countries as part of a diplomatic mission aimed at bringing the Taliban to the negotiating table.
Since Khalilzad last visited Kabul on October 4, his tour has taken him to Pakistan, the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, and Qatar.
A statement sent to journalists on October 13 by Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said Khalilzad met Taliban representatives on October 12 in Qatar's capital, Doha, to discuss ending the Afghan conflict.
Mujahid said the Taliban representatives told Khalilzad that the presence of foreign forces in Afghanistan was a "big obstacle" to peace and that both sides "agreed to continue such meetings."
Another senior Taliban member said the U.S. envoy had asked the Taliban leadership to declare a cease-fire in Afghanistan for six months, in time for the planned October 20 parliamentary elections.
"Both sides discussed prospects for peace and the U.S presence in Afghanistan," another Taliban official said.
The Taliban in exchange are seeking the release of their fighters from Afghan jails and the removal of foreign troops currently aiding Afghan security forces.
"Neither side agreed to accept the other's demands immediately, but they agreed to meet again and find a solution to the conflict," said a Taliban official who asked not to be identified.
A statement about Khalilzad's diplomatic tour released by the U.S. Embassy in Kabul did not confirm his meeting with the Taliban.
"The United States shares the aspirations of all Afghans for a peaceful Afghanistan where all Afghans see themselves included. All citizens of Afghanistan must be a part of this reconciliation process," Khalilzad said, according to the embassy statement at the end of his four-nation tour.
Khalilzad was appointed in September as President Donald Trump's special representative for Afghanistan reconciliation as part of renewed efforts to bring the Taliban to the negotiating table.
A statement from the Afghan president's office on October 13 said Khalilzad told Ghani and Abdullah that the United States was "ready to do anything to help with the peace process," but insisted the process should be led by the Afghan government.