Khalilzad and Ghani shaking hands here in Kabul

Amid uncertainty and doubt, US envoy visits Kabul to discuss peace issues

US Special Representative for Afghanistan Reconciliation Zalmay Khalilzad paid a visit to Kabul late on Saturday evening to discuss peace issues with the Afghan government. Khalilzad’s visit comes ahead of an intra-Afghan talks that will take place in Beijing.

The Beijing talks, which was scheduled to take place on 29 and 30 October, postponed because of the sensitivity of the talks, according to an Afghan official.

Sediq Sediqqi, spokesperson for the Afghan president, told Kabul Now that Mr. Khalilzad met with the Afghan President Ashraf Ghani. The details about the talks will be shared with the media later, Sediqqi noted.

US Special Representative for Afghanistan Reconciliation Zalmay Khalilzad came to Kabul while earlier last week the US Department of State issued a statement on intra-Afghan dialogue, urging the two parties to adhere to talks and respect the dignity of the Afghans.

The Taliban leaders have refused to open a direct talks with the Afghan government while Afghan leaders including President Ghani have voiced concern, saying the peace process should be led by the Afghans. The Afghan government, led by Ghani, has been skeptical about foreign clout—especially Pakistan’s influence—on peace talks.       

On Friday, Oct 25, representatives of Russia, China, US, and Pakistan met in Moscow to discuss issues related to Afghan peace. In a statement, issued on the same day, Moscow, Beijing and Islamabad called on Washington to return to negotiating table with the Taliban and sign an agreement that will set the stage for the Afghans on both sides of conflict to seat face-to-face to end the 18-year-long ruthless war in Afghanistan.

After nearly a year of direct talks with the Taliban, the US President Donald Trump abruptly called off the talks on September 08. The two sides were ready to sign a peace deal but Trump declared the talks ‘dead’ after series of attacks by the Taliban that killed several Afghans including a US soldier.

US President Trump faces election at home. As part of his reelection campaign, he has vowed to end America’s involvement in Afghanistan. It is not clear what it would take for the Trump administration to resume talks with the Taliban insurgents but US Special Representative for Afghanistan Reconciliation has come to Kabul to brief Afghan leaders about the fresh round of talks with the Taliban.

In a 15-point statement, Russia, China and the US, reaffirmed that “peace agreement must include protection for the rights of all Afghans, including women, men, children and minorities and should respond to the strong desire of the Afghans for economic, social, political and development including rule of law.” The statement also called on all Afghans including the government and the Taliban to ensure al-Qaeda, Daesh, East Turkestan Islamic Movement (ETIM) and other international terrorists do not use Afghan soil to threaten the security of any other country.  

The talks with Taliban resumes while many Afghans express deep concern about the consequences of a political settlement that may comprise their rights. Critical to the talks are some rights group and minorities who say it is not clear how the Taliban would react to the Afghanistan constitution once they are taken to the capital Kabul.