KABUL: The United States’ special envoy for Afghanistan, Zalmay Khalilzad, has stated that the level of violence in Afghanistan is too high and peace talks must begin as soon as possible.
“Both parties must be rational in their quest for common ground. The alternative to a Taliban victory where there is no peace deal is not a Taliban victory. “It’s going to be a long war,” he added.
Khalilzad told Germany’s Der Spiegel on Tuesday that he thinks the Taliban leadership has power over the group’s fighters on the ground, but he cautioned that “if factions within the Afghan Republic start to split and go their separate ways – which is a possibility, and a dangerous one – that will allow the Taliban, maybe the hardliners, to pursue a military solution.”
“It would mean a replay of the disastrous time of the 1990s, when Afghanistan became the scene of a civil war after the Soviet departure,” Khalilzad said when asked what a “military solution” would mean for Afghanistan.
The planned peace conference in Turkey, which has been postponed due to the Taliban’s reluctance to participate until all foreign forces have left Afghanistan, is one measure to see whether the Taliban wish to resolve the war by mediation, according to Khalilzad.
“The Turks have agreed, together with Qatar and the United Nations, to convene a meeting of the Afghan Republic and the Taliban to accelerate political negotiations. The Taliban so far have not agreed to the dates that were proposed. They said they haven’t yet received authorization from their leaders. But they do want prisoners released and they do want to be taken off the blacklist,” Khalilzad said.
Meanwhile, “War is expensive,” Khalilzad pointed out. He said that it was true for both the Afghan security forces and the Taliban. “A large number of people are dying on both sides,” he added.
However, he underlined that the Taliban have options, and those options impact their future.
“International recognition, support, removal from the sanctions blacklist, and the freeing of inmates are all possibilities. However, this would necessitate mediation and agreement on a substantive diplomatic settlement,” the US diplomat said.
“The alternative is war. Even if they make continued gains, they’re not looking at an easy victory. And ongoing aggression on their part will mean continued isolation, not being accepted as a legitimate partner, not getting off the blacklist, no prisoners released, and the continued opposition from the international community working to prevent a military takeover,” Khalilzad concluded.
These statements from Khalilzad come as US announced full withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan by September and the Taliban refused to join any peace conference until all foreign forces leave the country.