New Delhi: Zalmay Khalilzad, the US Special Representative for Afghanistan Reconciliation, has said it was not America that started the war in the country.
“We did not impose this war. Afghanistan has been at war for decades, at times with each other. Tens of thousands of innocent civilians have died. Rather than another season of fighting, Afghans are demanding a new way forward,” tweeted Khalilzad, inviting sharp criticism from Afghan people and experts.
Khalilzad’s statement comes at a time when peace talks with the Taliban are dwindling, and show no sign of ending any time soon.
With US President Donald Trump last year ordering the withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan after 17 years of continuous fighting, Washington has been engaging with the Taliban directly while the Afghan government has been left out of the talks.
War is not the answer, Taliban prolonging it
Khalilzad said the reason why US entered peace talks with the Taliban is because it believes “war is not an answer”, and by refusing to negotiate with the Trump administration, the Taliban is only prolonging the war. He also said that a ceasefire is the “quickest” way to stop the killings.
The US and the Taliban had been meeting in Qatar almost twice a month since January to conclude the peace talks, which are being facilitated by Pakistan. However, the Afghan government is not involved in the talks, which has worsened the situation.
The Ghani government is especially miffed at the moment as some members of opposition parties are taking part in the talks. The government seems to be creating a delegation to take part in the next round of talks in Qatar. Former warlord and leader of the Hizb-e-Islami, Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, said in an interview that the government is trying to induct some of its favourites into the Qatar delegation.
Khalilzad’s statement comes after the Taliban announced its 2019 offensive — Operation Al-Fath (Arabic for victory) — which it plans to launch against the Afghan government, in a clear indication that it will not go for a power-sharing deal with President Ashraf Ghani’s administration.
The Taliban also said in the statement: “Our Jihadi obligation has not yet ended.”
While making the announcement Friday, the Taliban also made it clear that unlike previous years, this time their main target is not the US or NATO troops present in the war-torn country, but the government.
Condemning the statement, the Presidential Palace or the ASG said: “The Afghan government is ready to defend every corner of the country, but it once again calls on the Taliban leadership to stop the illegitimate and imposed war and nod to the unconditional invitation of the Afghan government and people for peace talks.”
According to Khalilzad, the Afghan-born diplomat who was Trump’s first choice for the Taliban peace talks, the Afghan people want a “comprehensive ceasefire and negotiations leading to a lasting pace”, which the US supports.
‘US to be blamed for present situation’
According to experts like S.D. Muni, the US is to be blamed for the present situation in Afghanistan.
“The US cannot wash its hands of Afghanistan. The conflicting situation there would not have deteriorated had it not been so deeply involved in the system there since 2001. Earlier, it got involved due to the Cold War and wanted to throw the Russians away, and then, post-2001, it completely lost control,” said Muni, distinguished fellow at the Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses.
Muni, who is also member of IDSA’s executive council, said the peace talks are far from over, as the Taliban will not accept a power-sharing deal with the Afghan government, nor will it accept the Afghan Constitution.
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