New Delhi: External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar spoke to U.S. Special Representative for Afghanistan Reconciliation Zalmay Khalilzad, even as the US’ plan to withdraw troops from the war-torn country remains unclear after the Joe Biden administration took charge in January.
“Received a call from US Special Representative Zalmay Khalilzad @US4AfghanPeace. Discussed latest developments pertaining to peace talks. We will remain in touch,” Jaishankar tweeted Sunday.
Received a call from US Special Representative Zalmay Khalilzad @US4AfghanPeace. Discussed latest developments pertaining to peace talks. We will remain in touch.
— Dr. S. Jaishankar (@DrSJaishankar) March 7, 2021
The US signed a ‘peace deal’ with the Taliban in February 2020 with an aim to formally put an end to the 19-year-long war in Afghanistan, the longest ever by the US. The deal was signed in Doha on 29 February 2020 between Khalilzad and Taliban political chief Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, under the erstwhile Donald Trump administration.
Khalilzad, who was appointed as former US president Trump’s key negotiator with the Taliban, has been retained in the role by Biden so that he can continue with his “vital work”, according to US Secretary of State Antony Blinken.
The US special envoy is in Kabul at present holding dialogues with all stakeholders there.
“The Islamic Republic and the Taliban must find a path to a political settlement and a permanent and comprehensive ceasefire,” Khalilzad said in a tweet Thursday.
The Afghanistan issue is also expected to come up in the upcoming Quad summit as well as during the visit of US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin to India later this month.
Blinken, meanwhile, is believed to have written a letter to Afghan President Ashraf Ghani in which he has proposed a meeting of foreign ministers of Russia, China, Pakistan, Iran, India and the US to discuss the state of play in the talks, according to Tolo News.
Since the Afghan government and the US decided to bring the Taliban back to mainstream politics, India has maintained that it supports a peace and reconciliation process that is Afghan-led, Afghan-owned and Afghan-controlled.
In January this year, Jaishankar also held a detailed discussion with Afghanistan’s Foreign Minister Mohammed Haneef Atmar on the peace talks and the ongoing negotiations taking place in Doha, Qatar, between the Taliban leaders and the Afghan government.
Prior to this, Khalilzad visited India in-person amid the Covid-19 pandemic in September 2020 to meet Jaishankar, National Security Advisor Ajit Doval and Foreign Secretary Harsh V. Shringla for a possible India-US cooperation.
India’s role in Afghan peace
India has played a key role in the restoration of peace and stability in Afghanistan, having invested $2 billion in aid and reconstruction activities in the country.
Since 2016, India has quietly been scaling up its military assistance to Afghanistan. It has already supplied four attack helicopters, and talks for further such assistance is on.
According to the peace deal signed between the Trump administration and Taliban, US troops are slated to leave Afghanistan completely by May 1.
Presently, there are 2,500 US troops in Afghanistan. However, the US is allegedly displeased with the fact that the Taliban has not made any attempts to reduce the violence in Afghanistan.
Since the peace deal, the country has witnessed violent killings of political leaders, religious minorities and journalists and bombings have also continued in the main cities.
“When we look back at the past decades of our military involvement in the world, especially in Afghanistan and the Middle East, we must remember what we’ve learned about the limits of force to build a durable peace; that the day after a major military intervention is always harder than we imagine; and how critical it is to pursue every possible avenue to a diplomatic solution,” Blinken had said earlier this week, while delivering a speech on US’ foreign policy objectives.
In January, the Pentagon had stated that the Biden administration may not go for a complete withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan as the Taliban “have not met their commitments”.