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Khalilzad Briefs U.S. Lawmakers on U.S.-Taliban Negotiations

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(Last Updated On: September 20, 2019)

The United States Special Representative for Afghanistan Reconciliation, Zalmay Khalilzad on Thursday briefed the U.S. Congress behind the closed door about the failure of U.S.-Taliban negotiations in Qatar.

“In the last few weeks, we have seen the Afghan reconciliation process go off the rails in spectacular fashion,” Eliot Engel, the chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee.

“We have learned that the president up-ended the deal and we have learned that the peace deal evidently is dead,” Engel added.

Khalilzad held nine rounds of talks with the Taliban representatives in Doha, the capital of Qatar, in a year where the two sides had reached an agreement “in principle” but the process was called off after the Taliban carried out an attack in Kabul in which 12 people including an American soldier were killed.

The U.S. President Donald Trump on September 9 that the negotiations with the Taliban “are dead” and emphasized that he had no further interest in meeting with the leaders of the group to end the war in Afghanistan.

Meanwhile, the U.S. has cut $160 million aid for Afghanistan on Thursday while accusing the Afghan government of failing to fight corruption.

The country had allocated $100 million for an energy infrastructure project in the country, “which consists of five substations and other transmission infrastructure between Ghazni and Kandahar and Kajaki and Kandahar.”

The U.S. Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo said the U.S. will be “withholding” another $60 million in planned assistance for Afghanistan due to the government’s failure to meet benchmarks for transparency and accountability in public financial management.

“We expect the Afghan government to demonstrate a clear commitment to fight corruption, to serve the Afghan people, and to maintain their trust,” Pompeo said adding, “Afghan leaders who fail to meet this standard should be held accountable.”

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Biden to keep Khalilzad as peace envoy for now

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(Last Updated On: January 23, 2021)

Former president Donald Trump’s peace envoy for Afghanistan Zalmay Khalilzad will retain his position, for now, three sources familiar with the matter told CNN. 

This move is not typical as traditionally an incoming administration replaces all politically appointed officials – especially those dealing with foreign policy issues. 

Khalilzad, a diplomatic veteran, has worked on the peace process for more than two years and has been the key official from Washington to meet with both the Afghan government and the Taliban as well as all other stakeholders and regional leaders. 

No further details were released and according to CNN the State Department did not comment when asked about Khalilzad staying on board. 

However, in a statement issued late Friday, the US National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan told his Afghan counterpart Hamdullah Mohib that the United States intends to review the February 2020 US-Taliban agreement.”

He also said Washington would assess whether the Taliban was living up to its commitments to cut ties with terrorist groups, to reduce violence in Afghanistan and to engage in meaningful negotiations with the Afghan government and other stakeholders.

Sullivan also expressed America’s desire that all Afghan leaders embrace this “historic opportunity for peace and stability.”

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Washington to review US-Taliban deal, Sullivan tells Mohib 

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(Last Updated On: January 23, 2021)

US National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan spoke with Afghan National Security Advisor Hamdullah Mohib on Friday evening and said Washington intends to review the US-Taliban deal signed in February last year and to assess whether the Taliban is adhering to its commitments. 

In a statement issued by the White House following the discussion between the two NSAs, Sullivan said the US will support the peace process with “a robust and regional diplomatic effort, which will aim to help the two sides achieve a durable and just political settlement and permanent ceasefire”. 

Sullivan also made clear “the United States’ intention to review the February 2020 US-Taliban agreement, including to assess whether the Taliban was living up to its commitments to cut ties with terrorist groups, to reduce violence in Afghanistan and to engage in meaningful negotiations with the Afghan government and other stakeholders.”

According to the statement, Sullivan also expressed America’s desire that all Afghan leaders embrace this “historic opportunity for peace and stability.”

In addition, Sullivan and Mohib discussed the US’s support for protecting the gains made by Afghan women, girls, and minority groups as part of the peace process. 

Sullivan also “committed to consulting closely with the Afghan government, NATO allies, and regional partners regarding a collective strategy to support a stable, sovereign, and secure future for Afghanistan,” the statement read.

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Taliban should cut ties with Pakistan: Ghani

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(Last Updated On: January 22, 2021)

President Ashraf Ghani has called on the Taliban to cut ties with Pakistan.

Addressing a press conference on Thursday, Ghani stated that the Taliban should not have a safe haven in Pakistan either.

“One of the basic needs for peace in Afghanistan is that the Taliban should cut their ties with Pakistan. If they call themselves Afghans and want to be in Afghanistan; they should not have dual citizenships,” said Ghani.

Ghani also urged Pakistan to play its positive role in the ongoing talks in Doha.

“I urged PM of Pakistan to tell Taliban that there is no solution without a political settlement,” said Ghani.

The President has also criticized the interim government plan, emphasizing a democratic process for the power transfer.

Ghani stated that he will transfer power to the Taliban if they are elected by the people in the elections.

 “We hope for peace, but we are ready for every danger,” Ghani said.

This comes as the Afghan government peace negotiators are in Doha to discuss the agenda for the negotiations with the Taliban delegates.

Ghani, however, said that in the end, it is the people of Afghanistan who would decide the outcome of the negotiations.

Meanwhile, Shah Mehmood Qureshi, Pakistan’s foreign minister, on Thursday called on Joe Biden, the US president to follow up on the current Afghan peace process and US troops’ withdrawal from the country.

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