Absence of peace deal may allow Taliban rapid territorial gains, Washington warns Kabul – Times of India

ISLAMABAD: The Biden administration wrote letters to Afghan President Ashraf Ghani and the head of the Afghan peace council, Dr Abdullah Abdullah, in which a four-point strategy was presented to the Afghan government seeking an end to war in Afghanistan.
The letter, written by US secretary of state Antony Blinken, was handed to both leaders by the US special envoy for Afghanistan, Zalmay Khalilzad, during his recent visit to the war-torn country. There was also a chilling message in the letter for the Afghan leaders — that the absence of a peace deal may allow the Taliban to make “rapid territorial gains”.
The letter shared by TOLOnews, an Afghan news outlet, suggested the Biden administration wants to accelerate peace efforts.
As part of the four-point strategy, the US has proposed a UN-sponsored meeting of the foreign ministers of Iran, China, Russia, Pakistan and India to discuss a “unified approach” for Afghan peace.
“It is my belief that these countries share an abiding common interest in a stable Afghanistan and must work together if we are to succeed,” Blinken wrote.
Blinken wrote that Turkey will be asked to host a senior-level meeting of both sides in the coming weeks to finalise a peace agreement and urged Ghani or his nominees to attend the meeting.
The letter said Khalilzad was directed to share specific proposals both with the Afghan government and the Taliban aimed at accelerating discussions on a negotiated settlement and ceasefire.
These proposals, the letter read, would enable the Afghan government and the Taliban to move urgently to the task of developing foundational principles that would guide Afghanistan’s future constitutional and governing arrangements, a road map to a new inclusive government, and the terms of a permanent and comprehensive ceasefire.
Blinken also expressed concerns over the increased level of violence in Afghanistan, saying: “We have prepared a revised proposal for a 90-day reduction in violence, which is intended to prevent the spring offensive by the Taliban to coincide with our diplomatic efforts to support a political settlement between the parties.”
Secretary Blinken made it clear that these proposals were not meant to dictate terms to the parties but added the US expected a positive response from the Afghan government.
The Afghan side was also informed that the Biden administration had not ruled out any options at this stage. The letter added that the US was considering full withdrawal from Afghanistan by May 1, the deadline set in the February 29, 2020 Doha deal, as it pondered other options.
The letter concluded with a warning for the Ghani administration: “Even (after) continuation of the financial assistance of the United States to your forces after the American military withdrawal, I am concerned that the security situation will worsen and the Taliban could make rapid territorial gains.”
Responding to the letter, Afghan vice-president Amrullah Saleh warned there would never be any compromise on Afghanistan’s constitution and on the people’s right to vote. He said the US could hold a conference and decide on the presence of its troops in Afghanistan or negotiate with the Taliban but that it was the legitimate right of the Afghan government to not compromise over the fate of 35 million people in Afghanistan.
Abdullah Abdullah, however, cautiously supported the US remarks in the letter, saying, “Although I don’t want to defend the letter, there are important issues that have been brought up in it.”
Mohammad Mohaqiq, an Afghan politician and senior adviser to Ghani, said, “The weakness in the message of the US state department is that they have not recognised Afghanistan’s structure, and it has coercive language and a coerced and tailored peace will not lead anywhere.”

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