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US special envoy for Afghanistan to meet Taliban in Pakistan

US special envoy for Afghanistan to meet Taliban in Pakistan

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ISLAMABAD: The new US special envoy for Afghanistan will visit Pakistan this week for a meeting with the Taliban foreign minister and senior diplomats from China and Russia, a Pakistani official and the US State Department said, reports AFP.

It will be Thomas West's first trip to the region since taking over from Zalmay Khalilzad, the long-serving diplomat who spearheaded the talks that led to the US withdrawal from Afghanistan.

The so-called "troika plus" meeting, due to take place on Thursday in Islamabad, will include the Afghan Taliban's new foreign minister Amir Khan Muttaqi, a senior Pakistani government official told AFP on condition of anonymity.

The State Department said earlier in the week that West also plans to visit Russia and India.

"Together with our partners, he will continue to make clear the expectations that we have of the Taliban and of any future Afghanistan government," State Department spokesman Ned Price told a briefing this week.

The senior Pakistani official said the meeting is "primarily aimed at... finding ways to avert a humanitarian crisis and to look into possibilities of setting up an inclusive government in Afghanistan".

The United Nations has repeatedly warned that Afghanistan is on the brink of the world's worst humanitarian crisis, with more than half the country facing "acute" food shortages and winter forcing millions to choose between migration and starvation.

West, who was in Brussels this week to brief NATO on US engagements with the Taliban, told reporters that the Islamists have "very clearly" voiced their desire to see aid resumed, as well as to normalise international relations and see sanctions relief.