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Washington’s peace ambassador for Afghanistan, Zalmay Khalilzad, ended a four-day visit to Kabul on Tuesday. Mr Khalilzad is an Afghanistan-born American diplomat who led negotiations in the run-up to the Trump administration’s February 2020 peace agreement with the Taliban that set the terms and timeline for American withdrawal.
The US embassy in Kabul said in a statement on Wednesday that American leaders had met their Afghan counterparts in the city this week and “agreed that maintaining political unity is essential during this transition period”.
The HALO Trust, a British charity with an American subsidiary registered in Washington, began operating in Afghanistan in 1988. His field service teams clear land mines, dispose of duds from bombs and bullets, and build facilities for the safe storage of weapons and other weapons. The group has programs in 26 countries and territories, including Iraq, where it began operations in 2018.
The HALO program in Afghanistan, which began months before the Soviet Army withdrew in 1989, employs more than 2,600 local staff and remains the group’s largest operation in the world. HALO says on its website that for the past 30 years it has worked with the Afghan government to make nearly 80 percent of the country’s recorded minefields and battlefields safe.
Still, the group said, an area the size of Chicago still needs to be evacuated.
Diana, Princess of Wales, drew attention to HALO’s work in 1997 while walking through a living minefield in Angola – once home to one of the most violent Cold War conflicts in Africa – to highlight the danger of mines around the world.
Diana’s youngest son, Prince Harry, followed her footsteps in 2019 while traveling the continent with his wife Meghan, Duchess of Sussex and their son. HALO said at the time that it had cleared around 100,000 mines since Diana’s visit to Angola.
Najim Rahim reports from Kabul, Afghanistan, and, Mike Ives from Hong Kong. Fatima Faizi Reporting from Kabul contributed.