US proposes ways Afghanistan’s Ghani can accelerate stalled peace process

Kabul, Mar 7 (efe-epa).- US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, in a letter to Afghanistan’s president, Ashraf Ghani, proposed ways to accelerate the stalled Afghan peace talks toward a “negotiated settlement and ceasefire” amid the concerns that the Taliban may make rapid territorial gains after the full withdrawal of foreign troops from the wartorn Central Asian nation.

“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,” Blinken said in the letter, which is the first of its kind sent to Kabul from Washington.

To move toward a political negotiated settlement and permanent ceasefire in Afghanistan, the US is pursuing “a high-level” diplomatic effort with the internal Afghan parties, regional countries, and the United Nations, Blinken wrote.

To accomplish this task, the US intends to ask the UN to convene a meeting of foreign ministers and envoys from Russia, China, Pakistan, Iran, India and the US to “discuss a unified approach to supporting peace in Afghanistan.”

Therefore, the US envoy for Afghan reconciliation, Zalmay Khalilzad, will be sharing “written proposals” with the Afghan government and the Taliban insurgents aiming to accelerate discussions on “negotiated settlement and ceasefire.”

Furthermore, the US will ask the Turkish government to host a senior-level meeting between the Afghan government and the Taliban in the coming weeks to “finalize a peace agreement.”

“I urge you or your authoritative designees to join … in this meeting” Blinken told Ghani in the letter.

To prevent further violence, particularly during spring – which is the fighting season in Afghanistan – the US has prepared “a revised proposal for a 90-day reduction-in-violence program, which is intended to prevent a spring offensive by the Taliban” the top US diplomat said.

“I must also make clear to you, Mr. President, that as our policy process continues in Washington, the United States has not ruled out any option. We are considering the full withdrawal of our forces by May 1st, as we consider other options,” Blinken wrote at the end of his letter.

Over the past year, Washington has reduced the number of US troops in Afghanistan from 12,000 to only 2,500.

“Even with the continuation of financial assistance from the United States to your forces after an American military withdrawal, I am concerned that the security situation will worsen and that the Taliban could make rapid territorial gains. I am making this clear to you so that you understand the urgency of my tone regarding the collective work outlined in this letter,” Blinken wrote.

Afghan presidential palace spokesman Dawa Khan Menapal on his Twitter account confirmed receiving the letter, which was leaked by several Afghan television channels on Sunday evening.

“Afghan government received the letter of the State Department of the United States” Menapal wrote without providing further details.

The letter from Blinken came as the US is continuing its “review” of the Doha agreement with the Taliban to see whether they are living up to their commitments in the deal or not.

The intra-Afghan peace process, which began as a result of the Doha agreement has been almost in stalemate for more than a month amid the prevailing distrust between the involved parties.

In a process launched on Sept. 12, 2020, the Kabul and Taliban negotiators, so far, have only managed to agree on rules and regulations governing the talks and are currently trying to finalize the negotiating agenda.

To boost the peace process, Khalilzad, last Monday for the first time under the new US Joe Biden administration, travelled to Afghanistan where he met with the Afghan president, other top officials and politicians outside the government.

On their three-day visit, Khalilzad and his team “discussed various options to propel the process forward and (were) encouraged by what they heard. There is widespread support for the need to move more quickly and deliver a just and durable peace that Afghans demand and deserve,” the US Embassy in Kabul said in a statement on Thursday.

Khalilzad then travelled to Doha where he met with Afghan government and Taliban negotiators before traveling to other countries in the region.

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