The United States has dispatched its special envoy for Afghanistan on a five-nation tour aimed at advancing a fragile Afghan peace process.
The U.S. special envoy to Afghanistan, Zalmay Khalilzad, departed on a trip to Doha, Islamabad, Kabul, Oslo, and Sofia, the State Department said in a July 25 statement.
In Doha and Kabul, Khalilzad will “press for resolution of the remaining issues ahead of intra-Afghan negotiations, specifically final prisoner exchanges and reduced violence.”
The Qatari capital has been the location of repeated rounds of U.S. talks with the Taliban.
The United States and Taliban struck an agreement in February intended to pave the way for intra-Afghan peace talks between the militants and the U.S.-backed government in Kabul.
Key preconditions for intra-Afghan talks are prisoner exchanges and a reduction of violence.
The Taliban is prepared to hold peace talks with the Afghan government next month straight after the Muslim holiday of Eid al-Adha, the militants said on July 23, provided the prisoner swap has been completed.
However, on July 26, the Taliban accused Afghan security forces of rearresting insurgents who had been released, warning that Kabul would "bear responsibility for the consequences."
"They are incessantly raided, detained and put behind the bar by NDS (national directorate of security) of the Kabul (administration)," Taliban political spokesman Suhail Shaheen said on Twitter.
Javid Faisal, the spokesman for Afghanistan's National Security Council, said the claim was "incorrect."
"It's their way of sabotaging the peace efforts and the peace talks that should start," Faisal said.
Taliban militants control about half of Afghanistan's territory and they have continued to carry out deadly attacks since the U.S.-Taliban deal was signed.
“Although significant progress has been made on prisoner exchanges, the issue requires additional effort to fully resolve,” the State Department said.
Khalilzad will also travel to Pakistan to seek its support in advancing intra-Afghan negotiations.
In Oslo and Sofia, the diplomat will update NATO allies on the Afghan peace process.
Khalilzad's tour comes amid soaring violence that has threatened to derail U.S.-backed efforts to bring Kabul and the Taliban to the negotiating table and seek an end to Afghanistan's nearly 19-year-old war.
The Afghan National Security Council said on July 25 that in the past week the Taliban has killed 46 civilians and wounded 93 others.
With reporting by Reuters, AFP, dpa, and AP