Saturday, 23 February, 2019

Long a spoiler, Pakistan quietly starts aiding US-Taliban talks

US Afghan envoy Zalmay Khalilzad wants peace deal before July vote US heightens attacks on Taliban to gain leverage in peace talks: NYT
Deanna Wagner | 11 February, 2019, 11:25

Speaking at the US Institute of Peace on Friday, Khalilzad said "Between now and July there is sufficient time I believe where we could reach an agreement", Khalilzad said when asked if a deal could be reached by the Afghan presidential election.

For the US, the priority was securing a commitment from the Taliban that it would never again allow a terrorist group to use Afghanistan as a staging ground to attack the USA or its allies, and an agreement in principle was reached on that issue.

The US diplomat said that previous governments in Afghanistan, whether led by the Taliban or others, had failed because they had tried to impose their views.

The Taliban had issued a statement to announce Baradar's appointment and a reshuffle in their team to put senior leaders into key positions as the talks with United States officials gain momentum.

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

Islamabad, running short of foreign exchange reserves and in talks with the International Monetary Fund over what would be its 13th bailout since the 1980s, says it can not afford to see Afghanistan slide into chaos just as Pakistan is trying to attract foreign investors to shore up its own economy. The ex-president also said he would like to see all foreign troops withdrawing from his country "as soon as possible", even though he admitted that it would likely be a "very hard process".

"We always would like Pakistan, like other countries to do more, but we appreciate what they have done so far and I have indicated (as did) Secretary (of State), (Mike) Pompeo and the president that we want to have good relations with Pakistan, better relations with Pakistan", he said.

USA negotiator Zalmay Khalilzad commented on the Afghanistan negotiations on Friday, saying he believes "the sooner the better" on such a deal, and that it is his hope that a deal could be reached before the July presidential election in Afghanistan.

In recent months, President Donald Trump has suggested withdrawing almost half of the American forces in Afghanistan, but US officials have said he has thus far resisted that urge, largely in an effort to back Khalilzad's negotiations.

The 2019 Grammy Awards
Grande is nominated for two awards and could miss the chance of giving a speech onstage if she wins. The 61st annual Grammys Awards will be held on 10 February at Staples Center in Los Angeles.

"We will not just rely on people's words", he said, adding that there would have to be "enforcement mechanisms", which he did not define. Karzai also dismissed U.S. claims about providing security for Afghanistan.

But he also admitted that the "elections make the peace agreement more complicated".

Nonetheless, Tuesday in Trump's second State of the Union, the president suggested some American forces could leave Afghanistan soon and vowed to end the war, stating "great nations do not fight endless wars". "The Afghans must sit across the table with each other and come to an agreement about the future of their country", he said.

But the message that they have given me is that they understand that they can not go back.

"They (the Taliban) say they made a mistake in how they dealt with women the last time", Khalilzad said.

"They understand that they can not go back" to how things were, the U.S. negotiator said.

A statement issued on behalf of all parties also agreed on the complete withdrawal of foreign troops from Afghanistan.

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