WASHINGTON: The United States, Russia, China and Pakistan have endorsed the need for a comprehensive and permanent ceasefire in Afghanistan, which should start simultaneously with the intra-Afghan talks, says US reconciliation envoy Zalmay Khalilzad.
Mr Khalilzad, who leads the US team in the Doha talks with the Taliban, also represented Washington in the four-party meeting on the Afghan peace process, held in the Chinese capital on July 10-11.
This was the third meeting of the forum, which included China, Russia, and the United States but has now been expanded to add Pakistan, acknowledging that “Pakistan can play an important role in facilitating peace in Afghanistan”.
“We also agreed that violence needs to reduce now and a comprehensive and permanent ceasefire should start simultaneously with the intra-Afghan negotiations,” Mr Khalilzad wrote in a tweet released on Friday.
“We agreed we will expand and ask more international partners to join” the forum, as the intra-Afghan talks began, he said, hoping that the Taliban-Kabul dialogue would lead to a peace framework.
This framework would include a comprehensive programme for political future, which was acceptable to all Afghans, he added.
Earlier this week, the US envoy assured the international community that America was not “cutting and running” from Afghanistan. In a video message to a forum at Washington’s Georgetown on Thursday, Mr Khalilzad said the US was working with all key players and international powers to build “a consensus” for establishing peace in Afghanistan.
Gen Mark Milley, President Donald Trump’s nominee for Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, has also advised against pulling out American troops in a haste.
“I think it is slow, it’s painful, it’s hard — I spent a lot of my life in Afghanistan — but I also think it’s necessary,” he said at a congressional hearing this week.
On Friday, The New York Times reported that the Pentagon was privately urging President Trump to keep US Special Operations forces in Afghanistan even if all other troops departed after a peace agreement. A senior Pentagon official told NYT that Mr Trump had resisted the idea, as he wanted to keep the promise he made in the 2016 election campaign to end the Afghan war.
“Our ultimate goal in Afghanistan is a negotiated political settlement between the government of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan and the Taliban,” Gen Milley told the Senate Armed Services Committee.
Explaining why he opposed a hasty withdrawal, the general said: “US troop levels must be based on the level of threat present in Afghanistan, and they must provide the correct complement of capabilities to enable successful execution of the South Asia Strategy.”
Published in Dawn, July 14th, 2019