US peace envoy says US will not walk away if peace talks fail

Zalmay Khalilzad, the United States’ special envoy for Afghanistan reconciliation, stepped in this week to end the deadlock in Doha and said the US “will not walk away” from the war-torn country should the intra-Afghan negotiations fail.

Speaking to NPR, Khalilzad stated Washington would not make the same mistake as the Soviet Union which withdrew abruptly from Afghanistan in 1989, resulting in a devastating civil war that eventually led to the Taliban rising to power.

“We will not make the mistake that was made after the Soviet withdrawal from Afghanistan, which was to abandon Afghanistan. And the consequences were grave for Afghanistan because of the mistakes the Afghan leaders made,” he said.

“Rather than coming together, forming a government, they fought each other while the rest of the world benefited from the Soviet defeat in Afghanistan and the Soviet disintegration, which was partially helped by their conquest or attempted conquest of Afghanistan.”

He said now was the time for Afghanistan to seize the opportunity to negotiate a roadmap “where groups of different ideas or ideologies, values, can coexist in the same country.

“And at the same time, there is a lesson for the United States that we cannot abandon Afghanistan. We cannot turn our back.”

He said this did not mean the US necessarily needed to maintain a military presence in Afghanistan nor continue a war just to have a military presence – “but that if the conditions are right, [if] we don’t feel threatened, that we can withdraw our military forces or adjust them accordingly, but maintain focus, relations, economic assistance, political relations, diplomatic relations, to encourage the consolidation of a peace agreement, should it be arrived at by the Afghans.”

He stated the current peace talks situation was a moment for the Afghan leaders not to repeat the mistakes of the past, but instead to build a consensus-based system where all key players can participate, “and perhaps peace in Afghanistan can change the dynamics even regionally.”

The negotiating teams in Doha, have hit a sticking point and are still to finalize the foundations in which to continue peace talks.

Two sticking points have emerged. Firstly the Taliban want Afghanistan to recognize the US-Taliban agreement as the foundation of the Afghan peace negotiations, and secondly that Hanafi Figh jurisprudence sets the religious legal guidelines for the talks.

However, reports indicate the Afghan team is not happy about recognizing the US-Taliban deal as the basis for talks as they were not party to the agreement.

The Afghan republic’s team also feels strongly that issues that arise can be solved based on Hanafi Figh but that Shia Personal Status Law must also be taken into account.