The Special Representative for Afghanistan Reconciliation Zalmay Khalilzad will lead an interagency delegation to Belgium, Germany, Turkey, Qatar, Afghanistan, and Pakistan from February 10 – 28, the US State Department said in a statement late Sunday.
“This trip is part of an overall effort to facilitate a peace process that protects US national security interests and brings all Afghan parties together in an intra-Afghan dialogue through which they can determine a path for their country’s future,” it said.
“He will meet with our allies and partners to discuss mutual efforts to advance that goal and will consult with the Afghan government throughout the trip,” the statement read.
Khalilzad, who addressed a gathering at the US Institute for Peace on Friday, said the United States is hoping Afghanistan can strike a peace agreement including the Taliban before the presidential elections scheduled for July.
"It will be better for Afghanistan if we could get a peace agreement before the election, which is scheduled in July," Khalilzad said, adding that there remained "a lot of work" to do.
"We are after a peace agreement, not a withdrawal agreement. A peace agreement can allow withdrawal," Khalilzad said during his speech at the US Institute for Peace.
He added that "elections make the peace agreement more complicated".
Khalilzad, who held talks with Taliban representatives four times in the last four months, has expressed cautious optimism about the prospect of a deal, and even announced a draft framework, but stressed nothing had been finalized.
His remarks come days after Afghan politicians and Taliban representatives held talks on Afghan peace in Moscow which was described as "constructive" by some participants at the meeting.
The talks come as US President Donald Trump pushes to end the Afghan conflict, where about 14,000 US troops are still deployed, and which has seen countless civilian and military deaths, as well as an infusion of more than $1 trillion in US cash into the country.
In his annual State of the Union speech on Tuesday, Trump said the time has come "to at least try for peace."