Pajhwok Afghan News

Khalilzad eyeing peace deal before July elections

WASHINGTON (Pajhwok): The Trump administration is seeking a peace agreement, not a deal on withdrawing troops from Afghanistan, US Special Envoy Zalmay Khalilzad said Friday.

A future presence of American troops in the war-torn country would be conditions-based, said the diplomat, who ruled out an abrupt withdrawal of troops.

“My overall goal is, at the direction of the president and the secretary of state, not to seek out a withdrawal agreement, but a peace agreement.

“Because a peace agreement can allow withdrawal. It is not just the withdrawal agreement that we are seeking,” Khalilzad said in his address to the US Institute of Peace.

To achieve a peace agreement, a number of issues had to be dealt with, he said. Initially, they are focused on on counter terrorism and the withdrawal of US forces.

The US had reached an agreement in principle with the Taliban on a framework that would provide guarantees and an enforcement mechanism that no terrorist group or individuals would be able to use the areas under their control against the US, allies and others, he said.

“We will engage with Taliban further to flush out these commitments that they’ve made,” he said adding that the US and the Taliban have agreed “in principle and a framework for possible US withdrawal as part of a package deal”. US has a similar engagement with the Afghan government, he noted.

“Our hope is that once dialogue begins, which is our key objective, parallel discussions will be brought together. Even if we achieve success on these two issues, a peace agreement would not be immediately achieved without a comprehensive agreement on other issues,” he remarked.

The envy asked the Afghans to sit across the table with each other and come to an agreement on the future of their country.

The US had offered the Afghans to do what it could to be helpful, Khalilzad said, explaining: “But it’s for the Afghans to negotiate with each other. The US cannot be a substitute for decisions that they must make.”

“We will speak loudly and clearly for the values of human rights, value of freedom of the press, women‘s rights, all that we stand for. We’ll make sure they understand that for having a positive relationship with the US, those values must be respected,” he added.

Afghanistan today was different than what it was 19 years ago, Khalilzad said, believing it would take time for the Taliban to appreciate that.

“But the message that they have given me is that they understand that they cannot go back. We don’t trust the words of any of the protagonists, as such anywhere, but we will do what we can to facilitate it. We would be helpful and be watchful,” said the diplomat.

Khalilzad would ideally have the peace deal before the upcoming presidential elections in Afghanistan. He felt the Taliban were reluctant to sit down with the government to negotiate the future. But he hoped he would overcome that challenge.

Khalilzad the timing of a peace settlement from American point of view is sooner the better. “It will be better for Afghanistan if we could get a peace agreement before the election in July.

“We would prefer to see a peace agreement before July to bring the Taliban also into the process so that the peace agreement would facilitate a peaceful election or a framework for proceeding with regard to the future of Afghanistan,” he concluded.


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