Khalilzad lauds Pak role in US-Afghan talks

Lester Mason
February 11, 2019

On a question regarding the possible formation of an interim government in Afghanistan, he said that the Taliban had neither held any discussions regarding an interim government nor had they proposed such an idea.

Taliban sources said Pakistan's role in bringing the Taliban to the negotiating table was instrumental.

The US special envoy to Afghanistan on Thursday denied Taliban claims of a timetable for the withdrawal of foreign troops.

United States Special Representative for Afghanistan Reconciliation Zalmay Khalilzad on Friday acknowledged Pakistan's role as "a very crucial" for the reconciliation process with the Taliban.

Pakistan was now supportive of an intra-Afghan dialogue, including talks between the Taliban and the government, he acknowledged.

A declaration was signed after the three days talks, stating that all parties in the conference have agreed that a dignified and lasting peace is the aspiration of all the people of Afghanistan and this principle has been achieved in Moscow.

Pakistan, long at odds with the United States over the war in Afghanistan, has begun to play a behind-the-scenes but central role in supporting U.S. peace talks with the Afghan Taliban, including by facilitating travel to negotiations, USA officials and Taliban sources told Reuters.

Khalilzad said Islamabad had helped facilitate recent talks between the militants and the United States, although he said Pakistan should "do more". "My overall goal is, at the direction of the president and the secretary of state, not to seek a withdrawal agreement but a peace agreement", he said.

Khalilzad said the Russia-backed talks were "positive" as long as they helped facilitate intra-Afghan talks, not if they "polarize Afghans further".

Fazil Fazli, the adviser-in-chief to Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, told The Media Line that the Afghan politicians are damaging the values of the country.

Among several points of contention, however, is the Taliban's unwillingness to negotiate directly with the government of Afghanistan, which they argue is propped up by the USA government.

Late last month, 38 civilians and several Afghan soldiers were freed by the army from a Taliban detention center in southern Helmand province.

Khalilzad said he has pressed the Taliban to agree to a permanent cease-fire as a step toward ending the war, but they have resisted, arguing that it would remove their leverage and reduce the Afghan government's incentive to make concessions in direct negotiations. "It's for the Afghans to accept each other", Khalilzad said.

The situation also suited Russian Federation, which for at least the past two years has been trying to exert its influence in Afghanistan. The U.S. military turned its attention largely to Iraq in 2003, and eventually the Taliban were able to regenerate enough combat power to contest key battlefields, mainly in the south. He added that more talks are planned to "flesh out" the Taliban's commitments. He said he wants those intra-Afghan negotiations to start immediately.

If there is no progress towards peace, he added, "the elections will take place, and we are doing what we can to support the preparations for a credible election". It was organized by theCouncil of Afghan Society, a Moscow-based organization of the Afghan diaspora.

On the heels of negotiations with the Doha, Qatar, from January 21 through January 26, Taliban leaders met with a Russian delegation for two days in Moscow earlier this week. Beyond the usual considerations of foreign policy and the nation's role in world affairs, the weeks leading up to the annual speech were heavy on the region capped by the debate over the announced United States withdrawal of troops from eastern Syria, plans for turning over the fight to the local armies, and a robust debate over the efficacy of abandoning American allies.

He also thought the Taliban were hoping to undermine the administration so much that in the end they would negotiate on their terms.

Other reports by Iphone Fresh

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