Zalmay Khalilzad, US Special Representative for Afghanistan Reconciliation, said that he hoped a ceasefire would be established between the Afghan government and the Taliban on Eid al-Adha, during a regional conference in the Uzbekistan capital, Tashkent.
He made the remarks in an interview with the Associated Press and added that the Taliban’s interpretation of the US-Taliban peace agreement was that a political agreement should be reached before a ceasefire reached and both announced at the same time. However, he said that a temporary ceasefire should be provided now during Eid al-Adha. “As far as a temporary ceasefire is concerned, that is, a reduction in violence or a continuing reduction of the war, it may be that you know it is Eid al-Adha in the next few days. I hope a ceasefire is declared these days. Second, the ceasefire may extend beyond the days of Eid and then agree to reduce violence.”
The US Special Envoy for Afghanistan stressed that the Taliban could not achieve complete victory through war. Khalilzad warned that if the Taliban did not reach a peace agreement with the Afghan government, then the United States would not recognize the Taliban-led government coming to power militarily.
Khalilzad also referred to the Taliban’s takeover of more areas in Afghanistan. He expressed surprise at the Taliban’s rapid sweep through swaths of Afghanistan. The Afghan government accuses Taliban terrorists of receiving foreign aid to seize more territory in Afghanistan, and officials this time openly named Pakistan.
Afghan President Mohammad Ashraf Ghani said in a speech on Friday in Tashkent that according to intelligence estimates, about 10,000 Pakistani and foreign fighters were killed in the past month. Ghani added that, according to credible documents, the Taliban had not severed ties with terrorist networks. “Intelligence estimates indicate the influx of over 10,000 jihadi fighters from Pakistan and other places in the last month, as well as, support from their affiliates and the transnational terrorist organizations,” President Ghani said at the summit named “Central and South Asia: Regional Connectivity, Challenges and Opportunities.” “Contrary to the repeated assurances by Prime Minister Khan and his generals that Pakistan does not find a Taliban take over in Afghanistan in Pakistan’s interest, and assured of its use of force will use its power to influence to make the Taliban negotiate seriously, networks and organizations supporting the Taliban are openly celebrating the destruction of assets and capabilities of the Afghan people and state,” he said.
“To plunge Afghanistan into all-out war is to plunge the region into radical uncertainty. Pakistan, therefore, needs to be engaged coherently and urgently from the perspective of regional interest,” he concluded.
In his speech, Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan said Islamabad had done everything in its power to encourage the Taliban to negotiate and resolve the crisis politically. He also denied the accusations of the President of Afghanistan and said, “President Ghani, let me tell you, the country that is suffering the most from the unrest in Afghanistan is Pakistan. It is very unfair for Pakistan to take responsibility for what is happening in Afghanistan. I travelled to Kabul. If I did not want peace. So why did I travel there?”
Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan urged Afghanistan to consider Pakistan as a ‘partner of peace’. This was the second and the last day of the conference and immediately after his address, PM Khan held delegation level talks with Afghan President. Khan said Pakistan had made every effort for peace in Afghanistan, including bringing the Taliban to the dialogue table. However, he said the right time to engage the Taliban in negotiations was way before the pull-out of the U.S. troops from Afghanistan. “Why would the Taliban listen to Pakistan at a time when they are gaining victory after the withdrawal of troops,” he pointed out. Also, Pakistan’s Director General Inter-Services Intelligence Lt-Gen Faiz Hameed rejected the allegations of infiltration levelled by Afghan President Ashraf Ghani.
He said that the Afghan president had levelled unfounded allegations against Pakistan. “We want peace in the neighbouring country as a peaceful and stable Afghanistan is in the interest of Pakistan and other countries,” Hameed said. He said that Pakistan is not supporting any faction in Afghanistan. We are interested in a negotiated settlement among all the Afghan groups.
Meanwhile, Pakistan has also denied allegations by Afghan Vice-President Amrullah Saleh that the Pakistan Air Force had issued an official warning to Afghan security forces to repel any action by the latter to dislodge the Taliban from the border crossing of Spin Boldak. Such allegations “undermine Pakistan’s sincere efforts to play its part in an Afghan-owned and Afghan-led solution” for restoring peace in the war-torn country, said a statement issued by the Foreign Office on Friday.