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America reverses stance on ‘Afghan-led’ peace process and suggests shape of future government

2 min read


Afghan man passes by a wall painted with a photo of Zalmay Khalilzad, U.S. special envoy in Afghanistan (L), and Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, the leader of the Taliban delegation - Shutterstock

Afghan man passes by a wall painted with a photo of Zalmay Khalilzad, U.S. special envoy in Afghanistan (L), and Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, the leader of the Taliban delegation – Shutterstock

America is proposing an interim government in Afghanistan to drive the country’s stalled peace process forward, amid frustration at little progress in Taliban and Afghan government talks.

The pitch touted by Joe Biden’s special envoy abandons United States assurances the process should be Afghan-led, as Washington becomes increasingly desperate to get the foes negotiating .

A road map touted by Zalmay Khalilzad would see an international conference similar to the 2001 Bonn conference after the fall of the Taliban, Afghan officials said.

The conference would be held in Turkey, possibly under the auspices of the United Nations, and include key regional powers such as Pakistan and Iran. It would discuss setting up a transitional government including the Taliban, as a stepping stone to a political settlement.

The Taliban and Afghan government were supposed to begin talks to agree their own settlement soon after Donald Trump signed his troop withdrawal deal a year ago.

A military helicopter flies over people during the Afghan Security Forces Exhibition, at the Darul Aman Palace in Kabul, Afghanistan, Wednesday, March 3, 2021. The three-day military exhibition in Kabul allowed civilians to have a first hand view and take pictures of weaponry used by Afghan Security forces. (AP Photo/Rahmat Gul)

A military helicopter flies over people during the Afghan Security Forces Exhibition, at the Darul Aman Palace in Kabul, Afghanistan, Wednesday, March 3, 2021. The three-day military exhibition in Kabul allowed civilians to have a first hand view and take pictures of weaponry used by Afghan Security forces. (AP Photo/Rahmat Gul)

Yet they have still barely begun and America is desperate to push a process forward before American troops leave and the country faces the prospect of implosion into civil war.

Mr Khalilzad said during his three days he had “discussed various options/alternatives to propel the process forward”.

He said: “With all parties, I outlined our focus on Afghanistan, diplomacy, and garnering wider international support in order to help Afghans make more rapid progress on the peace process.”

Both the Afghan president, Ashraf Ghani, and the Taliban have in the past rejected an interim government. Many Afghans feel it would be used to discard the vestiges of the country’s fragile democracy, to install instead a gallery of warlords and strongmen dating back to the last civil war.

One international official said the idea had been around for years and was “very dangerous”.

“But there is a renewed urgency to get the talks to move forward, so I suspect that’s why greater risks are being taken to create any kind of momentum,” the official said.



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