WASHINGTON: The next phase in the US effort to restart the Afghan peace process is to convince both friends and adversaries that Washington remains committed to a political settlement in Afghanistan despite recent setbacks, an official document shows.
The statement, issued after US Special Representative Zalmay Khalilzad completed his renewed efforts to restart peace talks, stresses that Washington continues to “support a political settlement to end the war in Afghanistan”, but it also believes that “a reduction in violence is necessary to bring about a lasting peace”.
In September, the United States and Taliban came close to finalising a deal for ending the 18-year-old war in Afghanistan but a Taliban attack in Kabul that killed dozens of people, including an American soldier, derailed the effort.
Senior Taliban leaders and Afghan President Ashraf Ghani were already scheduled to meet US President Donald Trump in Kabul for signing the deal, but Mr Trump cancelled the trip hours before their expected arrival and said that talks with the Taliban would only restart if they first stop the fight.
But he sent Ambassador Khalilzad back on the peace trail two weeks ago, dispatching him first to European capitals and then to the South Asian region for consulting US allies and adversaries on how to restart the talk process. He first went to Brussels for talks with America’s Nato allies who have contributed troops to the US-led military mission in Afghanistan.
In South Asia, the US envoy for Afghanistan reconciliation visited both Kabul and Islamabad to review various options for re-engaging the Taliban while ensuring that the Afghan government also remains involved in the process.
Mr Khalilzad visited Kabul twice -- from Oct 26 to Oct 28 and from Oct 29 to Nov 1 – and met President Ghani, Chief Executive Abdullah, and other government officials as well as former officials, members of the civil society, and the religious community to “brief them and to hear their views on the peace process”, as the official statement said.
On Oct 28-29, Mr Khalilzad visited Islamabad where he met Prime Minister Imran Khan, Chief of Army Staff General Qamar Javed Bajwa, and other government officials.
In Islamabad, Ambassador Khalilzad discussed “the current status of the Afghan peace process and the importance of reducing violence. He also underscored the economic and security benefits peace can bring to the region”, said another official US statement.
Published in Dawn, November 5th, 2019