WASHINGTON: Both civil and military officials in the United States believe that there’s no military solution to the Afghan conflict and that’s why Washington is committed to a peace deal between Kabul and the Taliban, says the US State Department.
US special envoy for Afghanistan, Zalmay Khalilzad, is currently in the region on a mission to seek a negotiated settlement to the 17-year conflict, which has so far killed about 150,000 people.
A prestigious US educational institution, Brown University, reported last week that America too has lost 6,334 people in Afghanistan since October 2001, mainly soldiers and contractors. More than 1,100 allied troops, have also been killed in this fight.
At a Tuesday afternoon news briefing in Washington, State Department Spokesperson Heather Nauert said Ambassador Khalilzad’s travels in the region showed “our commitment to a lasting peace agreement, hoping that we can facilitate the Afghans and the Taliban coming to some sort of lasting peace agreement”.
This is Khalilzad’s third visit to the region in less than two months and takes him to Afghanistan, Pakistan and Qatar as part of a mission to persuade the rebels to work with the Afghan government for a peaceful settlement of this dispute.
“Our officials have long said, including the Department of Defence, that we don’t see a military solution to this [conflict] in Afghanistan,” Nauert said.
“Ambassador Khalilzad has been hard at work. I think he’s spent more time on an airplane or traveling overseas than he has back in Washington in the past month and a half or so since he’s taken on these duties.”
Responding to a question about an Afghan peace conference held in Moscow last week, Nauert said: “We see Russia, the Russian government doing this, where they will hold meetings related to hot topics around the world. That is certainly their right to do so.”
She pointed out that the US government sent a representative at the working level, “not to participate but just to observe in those discussions”.
The United States, however, is backing a separate ministerial conference, which will be held in Geneva on Nov 27 and 28. More than 50 nations are expected to participate in that conference.
Nauert disagreed with the suggestion that Washington wanted to delay the Afghan elections scheduled this year. “One of the things that is important to us is we’re committed to the overall electoral process. If there were to be any changes made to the scheduling, that would entirely be a decision on the part of Afghanistan, one in which we would not interfere.”
Published in Dawn, November 15th, 2018