Two days after Taliban threatened to pull out from further peace talks with the US over what the group described as “tactical pressure” by Washington, the US Special Representative for Afghanistan Reconciliation Zalmay Khalilzad said there is unanimity of views between the Afghan government and the United States that it's essential that military pressure remain on the insurgents, while preparing to engage in negotiations for peace.
Khalilzad, arrived in Kabul on Jan. 15 for his third trip on the peace process in Afghanistan. He met with senior Afghan officials where they agreed to continue military pressure on militants, while making strides to achieve durable peace in the country.
“A full day in #Kabul, which allowed me to speak again with President @ashrafghani and his senior national security team as well civil society and media. We agreed military pressure is essential while we prepare to engage in negotiations for peace,” Khalilzad tweeted.
Pakistan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs said on Thursday that Khalilzad held talks with senior Pakistani officials in Islamabad to discuss developments in the Afghan peace process.
“US Special Representative Zalmay Khalilzad @US4AfghanPeace holding delegation level talks with Foreign Secretary, Tehmina Janjua at MoFA today. The two sides reviewed developments post Abu Dhabi, in order to take the Afghan peace process forward,” Pakistan’s Foreign Ministry spokesman tweeted.
The US envoy who is now on a journey to facilitate direct talks between the Afghan government and the Taliban, said the US and its partners are proud of their longstanding support of the Afghan security forces and will continue to do so in the future.
He said unity among the Afghans and shared resolve are vital when detractors of peace try to divide them.
Last year in July, US President Donald Trump's administration ordered top American diplomats to seek direct talks with the Taliban to end the country's longest ever war, in a major shift after years of US diplomatic policy on the conflict. The 17-year long conflict, which is interpreted as the longest war in the US history, has cost the US $1 trillion so far.
The shift in Washington’s policy to try the way of diplomacy with the group marked a significant concession to Taliban, following Trump's previous decision to ramp up the war on the group in the wake of an ambulance bombing in the heart of Afghan capital Kabul that left over a 100 people dead.
In November, reports surfaced in the media that US and Taliban officials held three days of talks in Doha where the group keeps a political office.
Officials from the insurgency at the time said its dialogue process with the US officials was aimed at securing a time frame for the withdrawal of all US forces from the country to pave the way for an intra-Afghan dialogue.
While the prospects for sealing a permanent peace deal between the Afghan government and the Taliban remains in confusion, political commentators say these talks will hit a deadlock if the US does not agree to discuss the issue of troops withdrawal from Afghanistan.
“All stakeholders involved in the peace process in Afghanistan, which comprise seven stakeholders, among them three stakeholders inside the country whom I cannot name right now and four international stakeholders, all of them must be satisfied. Any sort of peace agreement between the US and the Taliban should be endorsed by the Afghan government. The Afghan people and the rest of the stakeholders, otherwise this approach will not take us to peace,” presidential hopeful, Faramarz Tamanna said.
“If the US continues its current approach which is handled by Khalilzad, I think the talks will hit a deadlock,” said political analyst, Wahid Muzhda.
In a statement released by the Taliban on Tuesday, the group said the US had agreed, during a meeting in November in Doha, to bring the issue of US forces' withdrawal to the table, but Washington is now trying to sustain its pressure by bringing “new issues” under discussion.
The group warned that such an approach could force it to halt all sorts of peace talks with the US.
“As the Unites States agreed during a Doha meeting in the month of November 2018 about discussing the withdrawal of foreign forces from Afghanistan and preventing Afghanistan from being used against other countries in the upcoming meeting, she now is backing away from that agenda and is unilaterally adding new subjects. Hence, the Islamic Emirate warns the United States that if the current state of affairs continues and America sustains her insincerity, then the Islamic Emirate will be forced to stall all talks and negotiations until America ends her unlawful pressures and maneuvering and steps forward towards true peace,” reads the statement.