U.S. special envoy says window to achieve political settlement between Kabul, Taliban will ‘not stay open forever’
The opportunity to achieve a political settlement between the government of Afghanistan and the insurgent Taliban will not be available forever, warned U.S. Special Representative for Afghanistan Reconciliation Zalmay Khalilzad on Tuesday, adding that the bloodshed must end.
“I return to the region disappointed that despite commitments to lower violence, it has not happened,” he posted on Twitter with an announcement that he was visiting Norway and Qatar to discuss international coordination and support of the Afghan peace process, as well as encouraging negotiating teams to follow up on ongoing decisions to reduce violence. “The window to achieve a political settlement will not stay open forever,” he added.
The special envoy lamented that intransigence and “a refusal to abandon animosity, embrace citizens, and agree on a formula for political cooperation/competition underpin the ongoing war.” He also condemned the recent rise in extremist violence across Afghanistan, noting that Afghans were dying at a high rate and regional spoilers were “using Afghans as cannon fodder for their illegitimate objectives.” He did not clarify who these “regional spoilers” were.
“Afghans need to pivot to development instead of destruction, stability instead of chaos, forgiveness instead of vengeance, compromise instead of inflexibility,” he added.
In a statement, the U.S. Department of State also criticized the mounting casualties of Afghans and urged peace. “The sides urgently need an agreement on a reduction of violence leading to a permanent and comprehensive ceasefire,” it said. “Along with international partners, Ambassador Khalilzad will press the two negotiating teams to accelerate their efforts and agree to a political roadmap that ends Afghanistan’s 40-year-long war,” it added.
There has been renewed violence across Afghanistan in recent weeks, despite ongoing peace talks between the Taliban and the Afghan government. In a report released on Tuesday, the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan noted that the number of civilians killed and wounded has not slowed since the formal launch of peace talks on Sept. 12.
“The peace talks will need some time to help deliver peace,” read the report, adding that all parties must prioritize steps to curb the harm to civilians.