Editor in Chief: Moh. Reza Huwaida Friday, September 25th, 2020

Khalilzad’s Optimistic Approach to Talks Carries no Significance

Talking optimistically about the peace talks, US envoy Zalmay Khalilzad has said that Iran is unwilling to back the peace process. But Iranian officials asserted that the Doha agreement was a deal between the US and Taliban not a peace accord.
Khalilzad has reiterated his optimism regarding the Afghan peace process saying that the intra-Afghan talks have been very close and the casualties of Afghan soldiers and civilians were decreased compared to those of the last year. He also pointed out the significant role of regional stakeholders in the Afghan talks.
Many believe that Khalilzad could neither form a regional consensus nor a national consensus between and within the Afghan political factions and heavyweights. He focused the bulk of his energy on Pakistan as well as Doha, but the outcome was less productive than expected. Although Pakistan pushed the Taliban outfit to sign a deal with Washington, it is unwilling to pressure the group to sit across from the Afghan negotiating team. Meanwhile, Russia and Iran are less likely to support the US-Taliban peace agreement, which simply ensures the US troop pullout and commits the Taliban not to allow al-Qaeda to use Afghan soil against the US and its allies. To this end, many argue that the US-Taliban agreement will carry no significance unless it reduces violence or commits the Taliban to declare ceasefire and hold negotiations with Kabul.
To many Afghans, Khalilzad is not a peace broker since he simply represented the Trump administration to ensure the US troop pullout even if the Taliban would continue their fight against the Kabul government. In other words, Khalilzad supported neither the Afghan government nor Afghan nation and marginalized Kabul from the Doha talks contrary to the constant demands of Afghan officials to be included in the negotiations. Hence, the public concerns and the issue of Afghanistan’s peace and stability are to be discussed in the intra-Afghan dialogue, which will be highly controversial.
Meanwhile, the marginalization of regional stakeholders as well as Washington’s close allies, including members of NATO, from the talks in the Qatari capital of Doha narrowed the room for regional and global consensus and lessened the outcome of the US-Taliban agreement. Despite his optimism, Khalilzad is possibly uncertain about the fruition of the intra-Afghan talks. To put it succinctly, the US-Taliban agreement is not inclusive for sidelining both the Afghan government and global stakeholders and there is not a peace guarantor behind.
The US-Taliban peace agreement gave concessions to the Taliban group and mounted its international reputation. Worst, after the deal, the US officials, mainly US envoy Zalmay Khalilzad, are unwilling to regard the Taliban’s violation of the deal – as they have purportedly maintained their deal with al-Qaeda and IS group – minimizing their escalated militancy, or pushing their backers to pressure them to hold negotiations with Kabul. 
There are possibly two reasons behind Khalilzad’s optimistic approach: first, Khalilzad is seeking to demonstrate that he has been successful in the talks with the Taliban and represented the Trump administration in the best possible way. He is telling US officials that Afghanistan is close to reaching peace and stability although some political analysts fear the emergence of civil unrest after the withdrawal of US troops. Second, a number of Afghans believe that since Khalilzad and the Taliban belong to Pashtun tribe, the talks, in which the Taliban were given concessions, were colored with ethnic orientation. Therefore, Khalilzad is seeking to de-uglify the Taliban’s past and present practices, urge the government to release their prisoners, and ignore their violation of the deal.
It is self-explanatory that regional stakeholders, including Iran, Pakistan and Russia, carry increasing weight in the Afghan peace process, but they were not included in the talks. Khalilzad, along with other US officials, points out the disruptive role of Iran, but he is silent about Russia and Pakistan. That is, all regional states have to put their weight behind the peace process and pressure the Taliban to honor their deal with Washington and stop violence.
Afghans believed that with the US-Taliban peace agreement, the casualties of Afghan soldiers and civilians will be reduced to a great extent, but their dream did not come true as the Taliban continue their escalated militancy to gain concessions at the peace table. Hence, Khalilzad’s optimism about the reduction of human fatalities is concerning. He should have persuaded the Taliban to stop violence for signing an agreement rather than touting the militants that the causalities they inflicted on Afghan combatants and non-combatants are lower than those of the last year. Khalilzad’s optimism is baseless and carries no significance for the people of Afghanistan.