KABUL (Pajhwok): US Special Representative for Afghan Reconciliation Zalmay Khalilzad has expressed his optimism that the Afghans would put aside their political differences and seize the opportunity to bring the 40-year-old war in their country to an end.
During a roundtable discussion with Afghan media persons here, Khalilzad said ‘significant progress’ had been made during several days of his meetings with the Taliban delegation in Doha.
“I just arrived from Doha. I spent several days there meeting with the Taliban delegation. The meetings in Doha this time were much better than the previous meetings. We made progress on vital issues in our discussions and agreed in principle on a couple of very important issues.”
The US peace envoy said: “There is a lot more work to be done before we can say we have succeeded in our efforts, but I believe for the first time I can say that we have made significant progress.”
“And this is a moment of opportunity, and I hope Afghans seize this opportunity to put political differences aside and deal with this moment positively and urgently. Seize the opportunity that we have to avoid future tragedies, to bring the 40 years of war to an end, to a good end, and I urge everyone to rise to the occasion. I am hopeful that they will.”
On intra-Afghan talks, Khalilzad said: “I have encouraged the Taliban to engage in direct talks with the Afghan government. It is our policy to get to intra-Afghan talks. I have conveyed the same message to the Afghan government, that I encouraged intra-Afghan talks. Afghans need to find a solution to this stalemate on intra-Afghan dialogue. The key for finding the solutions for Afghan problems is in the hands of Afghans now.”
He said there was a false narrative that the Afghans had not been included in the talks. “That is not true. The Afghan voice is there. We have many important issues to consider. A big concern for us is Afghan security and stability. The Afghan people are understandably concerned about their security. We are working together to get to a comprehensive ceasefire. We are working with the Afghan government, with international partners, to find implementing mechanisms to reach these goals,” the US peace envoy said on Afghan government inclusion in the process.
On interim government, Khalilzad said he did not discuss an interim government with the Taliban. Referring to the timeline of talks, he said: “We are in a hurry for the sake of the Afghan people to end the violence as soon as we can. We cannot leave the situation in a state of uncertainty. We need to complete the process.”
Earlier talking to New York Times, Khalilzad said American and Taliban officials had agreed in principle to the framework of a peace deal in which the insurgents guaranteed to prevent Afghan territory from being used by terrorists. “And that could lead to a full pullout of American troops in return for a cease-fire and Taliban talks with the Afghan government.”
“We have a draft of the framework that has to be fleshed out before it becomes an agreement,” the American envoy said in an interview with The New York Times in Kabul.
“The Taliban have committed, to our satisfaction, to do what is necessary that would prevent Afghanistan from ever becoming a platform for international terrorist groups or individuals.” He added: “We felt enough confidence that we said we need to get this fleshed out, and details need to be worked out.”
After nine years of halting efforts to reach a peace deal with the Taliban, the draft framework, though preliminary, is the biggest tangible step toward ending a two-decade war that has cost tens of thousands of lives and profoundly changed American foreign policy.