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US envoy Zalmay Khalilzad and the Taliban’s rise

If one particular person might convey peace to Afghanistan, US envoy Zalmay Khalilzad touted himself as the person for the job.

In the top, nonetheless, the seasoned diplomat appears to have overseen nothing greater than the demise of the republic he helped assemble.

The 70-year-old envoy spent years as Washington’s level man for talks with the Taliban that paved the way in which for the deal to finish the US’s longest battle and exit Afghanistan.

That milestone got here after greater than a 12 months of intense shuttle diplomacy throughout which Khalilzad visited international capitals, attended summits at glitzy lodges, and gave speeches at prestigious think-tanks.

The Taliban have been prepared to debate a compromise, he assured his audiences.

Once a prolific social media voice, Khalilzad has gone silent for the reason that Taliban returned to energy following the collapse of the US-backed authorities within the face of an awesome blitzkrieg.

The Department of State stated final week the envoy remained in Qatar, working the telephones in hopes of encouraging a diplomatic settlement.

But the deal he had hoped might finish the battle had really unleashed catastrophe.

Husain Haqqani, a senior fellow on the Hudson Institute, stated Khalilzad informed successive US presidents desirous to withdraw their troops that he had a peace deal, nevertheless it was the truth is a give up.

“He negotiated poorly, emboldened the Taliban, and pretended that talks would yield a power-sharing agreement even though the Taliban had no intention to share power,” Haqqani informed AFP.

Storied profession

Khalilzad took management of the US-Afghan portfolio in 2018 after the Trump administration named him a particular envoy overseeing negotiations with the Taliban.

The new project adopted a storied profession. Khalilzad had formed embryonic governments in Afghanistan and Iraq following successive US invasions, gaining a popularity for bringing disparate teams to the desk.

Washington’s determination to pursue talks adopted years of rising violence in Kabul the place the Taliban unleashed chaos by sending waves of suicide bombers into the Afghan capital.

Khalilzad secured the discharge of the Taliban’s co-founder Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar from Pakistan’s custody to kick-start the initiative, with the 2 sides cobbling collectively an settlement charting US withdrawal after nearly 20 years of battle.

During months of negotiations in Qatar, Khalilzad was stated to have developed a detailed rapport with the Taliban delegation.

Da3E548Bb09A4285B80Dd9969Bb6C17F 18Baradar, proper, and Khalilzad shake fingers after signing the US troop withdrawal settlement, February 2020 [Ibraheem al Omari/Reuters]

Pictures revealed on-line confirmed the gregarious envoy sharing laughs and smiles with Taliban negotiators, stirring resentment in Afghanistan the place battle raged.

But when the US withdrawal deal was lastly signed in February 2020 at a lavish ceremony in Doha, Khalilzad had secured nothing greater than largely nebulous assurances from the Taliban about any future peace.

“Khalilzad prised… just one strong commitment – that they would not attack the US and ‘its allies’,” wrote Kate Clark of the Afghanistan Analysts Network in a brand new report.

More imprecise have been guarantees from the Taliban to desert al-Qaeda and different worldwide armed teams, and to start speaking to the Afghan authorities.

Little time, area to manoeuvre

In hindsight, the settlement seems to have been little greater than a string of American concessions.

The US was leaving Afghanistan with no ceasefire and had not even established a framework for a future peace course of, one thing that may be very important for locking down a settlement to finish the battle.

Rather than securing compromises from the Taliban within the months following the deal, Khalilzad piled extra strain on the Afghan authorities – strong-arming the palace into releasing 1000’s of Taliban prisoners who instantly bolstered their ranks.

To add to Kabul’s woes, the settlement successfully set off a countdown, with the US promising to tug all of its remaining troops from Afghanistan by May 2021 – a deadline later prolonged till September. US President Joe Biden later introduced again the date to August 31

The Afghan authorities was left with little time or area to manoeuvre.

Biden’s determination in April to observe by with the withdrawal lit the ultimate fuse, sparking an all-out offensive by the Taliban that overthrew the Afghan authorities by pressure on August 15.

Two days earlier, US lawmaker Michael Waltz – an Afghan veteran – despatched a letter to Biden pillorying Khalilzad’s efficiency.

Khalilzad “has provided you with poor counsel and his diplomatic strategy has failed spectacularly”, he wrote.

“In light of this catastrophe, Ambassador (Khalilzad) should resign immediately or be relieved from his position.”

That similar day, Khalilzad despatched out his final tweet – begging the Taliban to tug again its fighters as they converged on Kabul.

“We demand an immediate end to attacks against cities, urge a political settlement, and warn that a government imposed by force will be a pariah state,” the envoy wrote.

By then, it was too late.


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