In an interview with Ariana News, US Special Representative for Afghanistan Reconciliation Zalmay Khalilzad briefed about all that happened at the Abu Dhabi Talks. Being his third visit to the region since his appointment as special representative, Khalilzad spent few days at Abu Dhabi, where he held talks with UAE, KSA, and Taliban on one of the meetings.
Following are the remarks of Ambassador Khalilzad during the interview.
Khalilzad firstly informed that the Taliban did not agree in Abu Dhabi to sit with the representatives of the Afghan government, and he clearly pointed out that such a decision by Taliban was a mistake. The US Special envoy stated that Taliban’s red line during the talks with U.S. was the withdrawal of foreign forces from Afghanistan.
Clarifying about certain rumours or speculations, he said that there was no negotiation or discussion about the postponement of presidential election and interim government during his talks with the Taliban representatives. This comes after repeated rumours of postponement in Afghan Presidential elections were doing the rounds.
Khalilzad assured however that the “Taliban are not thinking about the establishment of the Islamic Emirate in Afghanistan as before 9/11”. He added that “We told the Taliban that they should accept a ceasefire if their really want peace, otherwise the United States will stand by the side of Afghanistan and continue its attacks on the Taliban.” Thus, the US insisted on a ceasefire condition.
Describing about the deliberation on ceasefire, Khalilzad announced that “we discussed a six-month cease-fire as proposed by UAE and Saudi Arabia. The Taliban delegation said they can not decide on that unless they consult with one another.”
Talking about the Afghan peace process and the agency of Afghan people in the process, he clarified that “I do not doubt the will of the Afghan government to bring peace. All the people of Afghanistan want peace, including the heads of state. But when it comes to Taliban, this is a question for me whether they are determined about their will.” With this statement, Khalilzad cleared out to everyone and sent a message that while on one hand Afghans are ready for peace, the Taliban are lacking a will to come even halfway.
He remarked that it be good to have a peace settlement before the election. Adding to this remark, he said “It is possible that we will reach a settlement before the Afghan presidential elections. The Taliban are likely to accept Saudi Arabia and the UAE’s bid to cease firing”.
Regarding interim government speculations, Khalilzad assured that “There are a number of people who are worried and rushed and some worries are justified. Some concerns are coming from the lack of information. There was no debate in Abu Dhabi on political issues like elections and future governance in Afghanistan”.
Khalilzad reiterated that the United States does neither want to interfere in any internal affairs of Afghanistan whatsoever nor replace the Afghans in talks.
Khalilzad simply explained that the efforts he has been putting recently in the region, and in countries like Pakistan demonstrate how all countries support a peaceful settlement in Afghanistan, especially Pakistan. He assured that Pakistan is determined to take practical steps in this area, “Pakistan said the Taliban should sit at the negotiating table”.