The intra-Afghan talks have resumed in Qatar amid continuing escalation in Afghanistan, with several attacks targeting journalists and lawmakers in Kabul.
The US Special Representative for the Afghan peace process Zalmay Khalilzad met with the Taliban in Qatar, with reports proposing an international conference as efforts to revive the delayed peace talks restart.
“Both sides expressed their commitment to the Doha agreement and discussed its full implementation,” said Taliban spokesman Muhamad Naeem.
“Likewise, the current situation of Afghanistan and the rapidity and effectiveness of the intra-Afghan negotiations were discussed,” Naeem added.
The spokesman said Khalilzad and the top US general in Afghanistan also met with the Taliban’s negotiating team in Doha, including Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar on Friday.
This comes as Khalilzad visits Qatar – where the talks are being held – to discuss the delayed intra-Afghan talks, carrying a proposal to form an interim government, The Wall Street Journal [WSJ] reported on Friday.
The top US envoy, who arrived in Doha on Thursday, presented the proposal during his visit to Kabul this week, which is believed to delay the American troop withdrawal that comes as part of a February deal signed between Washington and the Taliban.
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However, the White House said in a statement that the latest report “does not accurately capture the state of play” and that the US “is not making any formal proposals and is continuing to review all relevant options for future force posture”.
“Ambassador Khalilzad has discussed a range of ways to move the diplomacy forward, nothing more,” the White House said.
No changes, just amendments
This also came following reports that the new Joe Biden Administration has no intention of withdrawing from the February deal, but rather aims to amend it, Al Jazeera reported on Tuesday, citing Afghan sources.
Before landing in Qatar, Khalilzad traveled to Afghanistan, where he met with both Afghan President Ashraf Ghani and Abdullah Abdullah.
Abdullah serves as the chairman of Afghanistan’s High Council for National Reconciliation, which is overseeing Kabul’s Doha-based peace talks with the Taliban.
The US envoy handed over two copies of the new US vision regarding Afghanistan, Al Jazeera reported.
“Both sides discussed future steps in the Afghan peace process and underscored additional efforts to expedite the peace process,” a presidential spokeswoman said in a statement.
Pressure has ramped up to reach common ground between the Afghan government and the Taliban to bring to an end the decades-long conflict.
On its Twitter, Al Jazeera cited a spokesman for the Afghan Reconciliation Committee who confirmed that Washington’s vision for a solution includes holding a regional conference.
The conference, believed to be held in Istanbul with UN supervision at the end of this month, is part of the US’ vision to reach a resolution, Khalilzad said.
Meanwhile, the US envoy will make several stops following the Doha visit, with scheduled trips to Saudi Arabia, Russia, China, India, and Pakistan, in a bid to obtain support ahead of the conference, Al Jazeera Net reported.
The intra-Afghan talks resumed in Doha at the end of February after a month-long series of delays since negotiators took a break in December.
Talks between the Afghan government and the Taliban kicked off in Qatar in September last year to end almost two decades of war between the two parties.
Negotiations between the two warring factions began months after the Taliban and Washington signed a “historical” accord on February 29th which ensured the phased withdrawal of American troops and NATO forces within 14 months of the agreement.
The accord, signed while the Trump Administration was in office, led to the reduction of US troops in Afghanistan to 2,500, the lowest since 2001, with a predicted total withdrawal by May of 2021.
The Biden administration, which analysts believe is working to gradually reverse Trump’s policies, is said to be reviewing the agreement signed with the Taliban last year.
But as Taliban attacks continue across the war-torn country, the US appears to be hesitant to withdraw.
Afghan President Ashraf Ghani has also called on Biden’s administration to slow down the withdrawal of its troops, accusing the Taliban of failing to commit to its obligations.
“Will the Biden administration commit to the withdrawal? Not likely, and certainly not in the manner that the Trump administration had agreed. There is a possibility that Biden might be pressured to add new conditions to the agreement, which the Taliban is unlikely to accept,” Dr. Farhan Chak, Associate Professor of Political Science at Qatar University, previously told Doha News.
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