Wednesday, March 27, 2019

One Step Closer to an Elusive Peace in Afghanistan - Ahmed Rashid

Last year, when President Donald Trump gave the go-ahead for negotiations to start between the US and the Taliban, nobody expected his patience to last very long. He could sabotage the American negotiating team at any time, many observers feared, by ordering an arbitrary pullout of US forces from Afghanistan, leaving the Afghan government vulnerable to a Taliban takeover of Kabul.

Nor was there much hope that, having decimated the State Department, Trump would ever play by normal diplomatic rules and depend on institutions like the intelligence community that does the leg-work in such negotiations, rather than his own Fox News-driven instincts. Yet Trump has surprised everyone. By appointing Zalmay Khalilzad as chief US negotiator, he chose a highly experienced, Afghan-born diplomat. Although Khalilzad was sometimes seen as a controversial figure during the Bush administrations, when he served stints as the US ambassador to Afghanistan, Iraq, and the United Nations, for this job he was acceptable to both Republicans and Democrats in Congress as the most qualified person from the foreign service community.

Khalilzad was granted the time and space to build up a comprehensive inter-agency team of experts, which includes representatives from the CIA to the Treasury. He also gained the surprising cooperation of the Pentagon, which has only recently shifted its position—until last year the US Defense Department still favored more aggressive military operations against the Taliban rather than engaging in peace talks.

Trump even kept his tweeting on the subject to a minimum. There were no threats or sarcastic comments about Afghanistan or the Taliban, and near-zero interference in Khalilzad’s mission. The US president’s lack of engagement with what was happening in Afghanistan has , in fact, been a boon for Khalilzad, allowing him a free hand in the negotiations. According to diplomatic sources close to the envoy, Trump has continued to show little interest in the progress of the talks with the Taliban.

Supervision of the chief negotiator’s progress has been left, instead, to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, whom some considered just as likely to undermine peace efforts. Last December, in a major speech in Brussels, Pompeo had attacked nearly every international organization working for global peace including the United Nations, the European Union, the African Union, and the World Bank. Yet even Pompeo has stayed quiet on the peace efforts in Afghanistan. - Read More

One Step Closer to an Elusive Peace in Afghanistan | by Ahmed Rashid


Post a Comment

<< Home