The US State Department said on Monday that it is too early to say how Afghan peace talks are going, but the United States believes this is a moment when progress is possible, Reuters reported.
Reuters reports that State Department spokesman Ned Price also told a regular news briefing that the US special envoy for Afghanistan, Zalmay Khalilzad, would be based in Doha for some time.
“We have continued to encourage all sides to take part constructively and with a degree of alacrity, knowing that this is a moment in time where progress is possible,” Price said. “We want to do everything we can to facilitate that progress, to support dialogue, the inter-Afghan dialogue between the various parties. That’s precisely why we’re there.”
On Monday, Khalilzad and General Austin Scott Miller, Commander Resolute Support Mission in Afghanistan and met with Pakistan’s Chief of Army Staff and discussed the Afghan peace process, Pakistan’s Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) said in a statement.
“Matters of mutual interest, regional security and ongoing Afghanistan Reconciliation Process were discussed during the meeting,” it said, adding that “the visiting dignitary greatly appreciated Pakistan's role in the ongoing peace process.”
Reaction to US Secretary Blinken's Letter
On Monday, the Afghan politicians reacted to the US Secretary of State Antony Blinken’s letter to Afghan leaders stressing the urgency for peace efforts, saying, among other things, the letter highlights a stronger role for Khalilzad in the peace process.
The letter, seen by TOLOnews, proposes a United Nations-led conference in Turkey on Afghanistan’s peace.
The politicians said that the recent calls between the US secretary of state, the US national security adviser and Afghan NSA Hamdullah Mohib could not change the Afghan government’s stance on peace and therefore Mr. Blinken produced this blunt letter.
Afghan politicians also believe that the way the letter has been sent “has reduced” President Ghani’s political status, but the Afghan foreign minister said such communication is normal.
“We allowed for this in our diplomacy--that such contacts are made; therefore, I don’t see it as a type of offense or indifference,” Foreign Affairs Minister Mohammad Haneef Atmar said.
The First Vice President Amrullah Saleh had a direct and harsh reaction to the letter, saying that it will not change the Afghan government’s position on the peace process.
Referring to Saleh’s remarks, Atmar said: “What is important is not the way the letter has been sent, but the context of the letter, which stresses once again the common interests of Afghanistan and the US ... and the need for cooperation between the two countries.”
Afghan politicians saw significance in the fact that the letter was sent to both President Ghani and Chairman Abdullah Abdullah.
“The letter shows that Dr. Ghani and Abdullah Abdullah are seen as equal… It means that if Ghani opposes it, the US gives the weight to Abdullah to move the peace process forward,” university lecturer Faiz Mohammad Zaland said.
The US secretary of state has held a phone conversation with President Ghani, and the US defense secretary has spoken with the Afghan president as well.
Afghan analysts said that the letter shows that Khalilzad’s job is vital for the United States.
“The message of the letter was that the people’s situation should be addressed, the unending war should be addressed,” said Sattar Murad, head of the political committee of the Jamiat-e-Islami party of Afghanistan.
Politicians from Afghanistan, including President Ghani and Abdullah Abdullah, as well as foreign envoys, are expected to attend a meeting hosted by Moscow within the next 10 days to discuss the Afghan peace process.
“A conference will be held. Some figures have been invited. The reconciliation council chairman has also been invited,” the reconciliation council’s spokesman Fraidoon Khwazoon said.
This comes as Khalilzad recently traveled to Pakistan after his visit to Kabul and Doha. Reports indicate that he has met with military and civilian officials in Islamabad about the new proposed draft for Afghan peace.