New Delhi: US Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken has reportedly written a letter to Afghan President Ashraf Ghani proposing a UN-convened meeting of representatives of six countries, including India, to discuss a “unified approach to supporting peace in Afghanistan”.
According to the letter, accessed exclusively by private Afghan broadcaster TOLO News, the US intends to ask the United Nations (UN) to convene foreign ministers and envoys from Russia, China, Pakistan, Iran, India and the US. This is described as the first step of a four-pronged strategy meant to “move matters more fundamentally and quickly toward a settlement and a permanent and comprehensive ceasefire”.
Blinken reportedly said the Joe Biden administration has “not yet completed” its “review of the way ahead” on its strategy in Afghanistan, but has “reached an initial conclusion that the best way to advance our shared interests is to do all we can to accelerate peace talks and to bring all parties into compliance with their commitments”.
The reported letter comes as the Joe Biden administration looks to chalk out its strategy on Afghanistan. Under Biden’s predecessor Donald Trump, the US had negotiated a peace deal with the Taliban in February 2020 to set the stage for the US’ withdrawal from the country, two decades after it sent troops to the country.
A subsequent intra-Afghan dialogue brokered by Qatar saw the Afghan government and Taliban start a discussion on peace in the besieged country.
Despite the US-Taliban peace deal, Afghanistan remains wracked by violence and the ensuing talks have been accompanied by fears in some sections about the Taliban’s return to power in the country.
‘Road map of peace’
In the letter posted by TOLO News, Blinken said Russia, China, Pakistan, Iran, India and the US “share an abiding common interest in a stable Afghanistan” and thus these countries “must work together” in order to “succeed”.
Describing the other steps, Blinken said he has directed US Special Representative for Afghanistan Reconciliation Zalmay Khalilzad — retained from the Trump administration — to prepare “written proposals aimed at accelerating discussions on a negotiated settlement and ceasefire”.
The proposals, he said, will be handed over to both the parties — the Afghan government and the Taliban leaders.
These written proposals will lay down a “roadmap for the peace process” and it will enable both parties to “move urgently” in some critical areas such as Afghanistan’s future constitutional and governing arrangements, in the interest of a new and inclusive government.
In a surprising move, the US has also sought assistance from Turkey to host a senior-level meeting of both sides “in the coming weeks to finalise a peace agreement”.
Finally, the US has set a 90-day target for reduction in violence in Afghanistan that will seek to “prevent a Spring offensive by the Taliban and to coincide with our diplomatic efforts to support a political settlement between the parties”.
Seeking to assuage concerns of the Afghan government and people, Blinken said US President Joe Biden is “considering the full withdrawal of our forces by 1 May, as was committed in the Taliban peace deal signed under Trump”.
However, he also warned that the security situation in Afghanistan will “worsen” and the Taliban “could make rapid territorial gains” in the aftermath of an “American military withdrawal”.