Khalilzad warns militia groups could complicate negotiations further

US Special Representative for Afghanistan Reconciliation Zalmay Khalilzad said this week that there are “alternative futures” for Afghanistan but warned that the establishment of militia groups could complicate matters even further.

He said the best outcome now would be for negotiations to restart.

Speaking to PBS News Hour this week, Khalilzad said: “The Talibs have to know, and we have said that to them, that if they take over Afghanistan by force they will forgo what they say they want, which is recognition and support and legitimacy.

“We also believe the war will not end with the Taliban advances because other Afghans will resist them,” he said adding that the recent increase in militia groups that have taken up arms against the Taliban could complicate matters.

“Rather than two organized forces negotiating peace, there could be a multiplicity of forces that could emerge as a result making negotiations that much more difficult.”

He said this could increase the prospects of a long war and for Afghanistan’s neighbors to come in on different sides and that’s repeating the situation that was the case in the 1990s (during the civil war).”

Both sides need to be realistic, they need to find a solution that works for Afghanistan,” he said adding that it would be a “tragedy” if they don’t come to an agreement and the long war becomes even longer.
Khalilzad said he is “not comfortable” with what is happening in Afghanistan at the moment and that he is “not happy” that peace negotiations have not progressed as much as they should have between the two sides.

He also said the continuation of the war is “heartbreaking” and that he feels for the Afghan people.

He told PBS that the withdrawal of US troops is based on an agreement signed last year with the Taliban and is part of a package which includes a number of commitments including, but not limited to, a ceasefire and the start of negotiations that would lead to a new government.

Asked how the US justifies the decision to withdraw forces given the high levels of violence, Khalilzad said the withdrawal could have been conditions based but ultimately the US president decided it was best to withdraw troops and “to encourage the Afghans to support the government to reach a negotiated agreement”.

Reports indicate that US troops are just days away from completing the withdrawal process yet there are still no concrete plans in place to secure the airport in Kabul, no finalized plan to maintain the Afghan Air Force, and no finalized plan on US military support from neighboring countries.

Khalilzad said however that the US government is working to address all these issues and said progress has been made with some countries including Turkey over the issue of securing the Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul. He said US forces were still at the airport and a final plan needs to be in place before American troops withdraw completely.
“We are also working with the Afghans to make sure they have the contracting services that they need to maintain their airforce and we are committed to achieving that too before September.”

He said the US is dealing with both those issues, “and more”.

“We are also reorganizing our counterterrorism posture to have the access and the presence needed to monitor the situation in Afghanistan and to be able to strike terrorist targets should that be necessary,” Khalilzad said.