“But I am realistic — I have dealt with the various sides,” Mr. Khalilzad said. “I think that a comprehensive, permanent cease-fire is likely to require a package. But why not have a significant reduction of violence, a cease-fire that is not permanent?
“Of course, we would be very happy if there is immediate permanent cease-fire,” he said, “but the record of such negotiations where violence is the main instrument of one of the parties shows that, I think, giving it up permanently will be difficult.”
After 17 years of fighting, the United States in late 2018 gave in to a stubborn Taliban demand to break the stalemate: talks with the Americans that excluded the Afghan government, which the insurgents insist is a puppet administration.
Mr. Khalilzad, working under pressure from President Trump to reach a deal that would get American troops out, reached an agreement with the insurgents that was criticized by many Afghan officials as having been rushed and giving the Taliban too much without assurances in return.
The troop withdrawal began on the Taliban’s promise that they would negotiate with the Afghan government and not let terrorist groups use Afghan territory as a haven and staging ground for international attacks. But in the months since, some international observers have questioned the Taliban’s commitment to that vow to abandon their allies in Al Qaeda and other such groups.
The government side’s 20-member team includes only three women — not five, as earlier believed — underscoring how Afghan women have struggled for equality since the Taliban were driven from power, despite various promises that often proved hollow.
Their careers reflect the hard-fought gains that women have made in Afghanistan’s patriarchal culture — gains that they must now convince the Taliban to accept in a future system. One delegate, Habiba Sarabi, was the first female governor of an Afghan province. Another, Fawzia Koofi, a single mother, fought her way to the deputy speakership of Afghanistan’s Parliament; the third, Sharifa Zurmati, was a journalist before switching to politics and entering Parliament.