Contradictory news emerge over US envoy Khalilizad’s Kabul visit

Afghan leaders and politicians have made different reactions over progress in US-Taliban talks and recent Kabul visit of Zalmay Khalilzad, the US Special Representative for Afghanistan Reconciliation.    

Mr. Khalilzad met with President Ghani, Abdullah Abdullah, Chief Executive, Hamid Karzai, and many other prominent politicians on Sunday, February 02.

The presidential palace, hours after Khalilzad’s meeting with President Ghani, in a statement, said the US negotiations with the Taliban did not have any significant progress, quoting Khalilzad.

Former Afghan president Hamid Karzai, who met the US envoy for Afghan peace, wrote that Khalilzad was pleased with the progress and achievements of the peace process.

Omar Zakhilwal, a former Minister of Finance, who was present in Khalilzad meeting with Karzai has claimed that the US chief negotiator has brought some “good news” about the progress of peace talks.

Mr. Abdullah, however, told a different story about recent progress in peace talks. According to Abdullah, the US adheres to the principle of reducing violence by defining and adopting a clear and acceptable mechanism for the US, Afghan government, and its people as a precondition for signing a peace agreement with the Taliban.

The US Embassy in Kabul has said that Khalilzad and his delegation completed a ‘productive’ trip to Afghanistan on February 02. Khalilzad has maintained consultations with President Ghani and Abdullah on US efforts to facilitate a political settlement. “Their main topic of discussion was on US efforts to negotiate a reduction of violence with the Taliban to pave the way for a US-Taliban agreement, intra-Afghan negotiations, and a comprehensive ceasefire in support of a sustainable peace,” said the US Embassy in Kabul.

Mr. Khalilzad met with a group of political leaders. In his meeting, he called on the Afghans to form a negotiating team and be ready for intra-Afghan talks, read the statement.  

Ceasefire and the reduction of violence have been the main focus of peace talks between the US and the Taliban negotiators in Qatar. After an alleged US-Taliban agreement on reduction in violence, the Afghan government reacted, calling the reduction of violence as meaningless.

A number of politicians including Abdullah Abdullah and Hamid Karzai, however, have agreed upon reduction of violence. They accuse President Ghani of stalling the ceasefire process.

“We are waiting for a clear response from the Taliban based on a practical mechanism for a ceasefire or a sustained reduction in violence acceptable to the Afghan people and the US government,” the presidential press release quoted Khalilzad as saying.

At a meeting of council of ministers, on February 03, Abdullah said that he has talked about some conditions for starting peace talks with the Taliban but reiterated that he had no preconditions for preliminary peace talks.  

The US Embassy said reduction of violence is the first step to pave the way for a US-Taliban agreement, intra-Afghan talks, and ceasefire.

Omar Samad, a senior advisor for Abdullah, says the US-Taliban negotiations are at odds with the political goals, interests, and strategies of domestic and foreign actors. According to Mr. Samad the US-Taliban talks is a matter of complex issue which will be not be resolved overnight.  

A former Taliban official, Sayed Akbar Agha, however, argues that the US-Taliban talks is overshadowed by issues such as tensions between US and Iran, withdrawal of US troops from Iraq upon the country’s parliament vote, and Trump’s impeachment.

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