US invited Iran to talks on Afghanistan, but ‘carefully monitoring’ Tehran: Khalilzad

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The United States has invited Iran to talks on ending the war in Afghanistan, a US official said Thursday but warned that Washington was “carefully monitoring” Iranian forces.

“We have offered to meet with Iranians on [Afghanistan],” and its future, US Special Representative for Afghanistan Reconciliation Zalmay Khalilzad said during a webinar.

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The US diplomat slammed Iran for trying to keep the US “entangled … without winning or losing,” and trying to make the US pay “a high price in Afghanistan until there is an agreement between the US and Iran.”

He stressed that the US had warned that it would respond to any groups backed by Iran or close to it that acted against US and coalition partners. “We are monitoring them very closely. There have been disturbing actions that have had a negative impact,” Khalilzad said without elaborating.

Speaking to the United States Institute of Peace (USIP), Khalilzad admitted that there was “no viable path” to a military victory in Afghanistan.

Asked about the Taliban peace talks and what evidence there was that the militant group was serious, he cited the high-level delegation sent to discussions with the US.

But Khalilzad noted that plans to downsize the number of US troops in Afghanistan, before a complete withdrawal, was all conditional.

Meanwhile, Afghan security forces killed 65 Taliban militants during an intense battle in eastern Afghanistan, officials said Thursday, as fighting rages between the two sides despite the ongoing peace talks.

Iran has denounced the agreement negotiated by Khalilzad between the US and the Taliban, which envisions a US pullout next May, and has accused Washington of legitimizing the Taliban.

But it has also stepped up its own contacts with the militants, with US officials accusing Tehran of backing attacks against Western forces.

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- With AFP

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