Friday, 22 February, 2019

U.S. heightens attacks on Taliban to gain leverage in peace talks

US Afghan envoy Zalmay Khalilzad wants peace deal before July vote US heightens attacks on Taliban to gain leverage in peace talks: NYT
Ellis Copeland | 11 February, 2019, 11:26

Dan Feldman, a former US special representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan, said he believed Washington was still hesitant to become too hopeful about Pakistan's change in posture. "What we've achieved so far is significant, but they are two or three small steps in a long journey".

Khalilzad last week announced a "draft framework" for a peace deal, though he warned that major hurdles remain.

Khalilzad said an agreement was reached in principle with the Taliban "that no terrorist group, worldwide terrorist group, or individuals would be able to use Afghanistan and the areas they control".

Karzai's words came days after Taliban representatives met in the Russian capital with other Afghan delegates, including the former president himself as well as other former government officials and some members of the Afghan diaspora in Russia.

He insisted that the Taliban are holding talks with the United States "on their own initiative".

An Afghan analyst, Ahmad Saeedi, said rift within the government and among political parties "will affect Afghanistan and its peace process". "My overall goal is, at the direction of the president and the secretary of state, not to seek a withdrawal agreement but a peace agreement", he said.

He also served as the US Ambassadors to Afghanistan and Iraq during the Bush Administration.

"After many conversations, we have reached an agreement in principle with the Taliban on a framework that would provide guarantees, and enforcement mechanism that no terrorist group, global terrorist group or individuals would be able to use Afghanistan, the areas that they control and should they be part of a future government; against the United States as allies and others", Khalilzad said.

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If there is no progress towards peace, he added, "the elections will take place, and we are doing what we can to support the preparations for a credible election".

The military strategy, devised by General Austin Miller, the current commander of the American-led mission in Afghanistan, is similar to past attempts to bleed the militant group, the report said.

The possibility of a unilateral United States withdrawal from Afghanistan has created a new wave of uncertainty in the region, "which poses yet another challenge to Pakistan", he warned.

"We are in the early stage of a protracted process", he said in remarks at the United States Institute of Peace, adding, "We have a long way to go".

Additionally, the Taliban have promised not to provide shelter again to foreign extremists, but experts say they can not be trusted and even now are helping to hide foreign militants. So, the time has come, they say for an inclusive dialogue leading to an inclusive piece, he said.

He said that there is time to make a final deal before Afghanistan's presidential election in July.

"But we don't have to wait until then for regional players to play a positive role".

While the US talks with the Taliban have focused on troop presence and assurances that terrorist networks would not be given haven, Khalilzad said intra-Afghan talks could also deal with human rights, freedom of the press and the role of women, who were harshly oppressed under Taliban rule.

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