WASHINGTON: The Afghan government and Taliban remain far from reaching a peace agreement, the US representative to the negotiations said Tuesday as Washington upped the pressure on Kabul to reach a deal.
As new explosions rocked the Afghan capital and fighting intensified over the control of three provincial capitals, Zalmay Khalilzad, the US Special Representative for Afghanistan Reconciliation, said the Taliban are demanding a new government with the most power in their hands, while Kabul wants to bring them into the current government.
“They are far apart, and they are trying to affect each other’s calculus, and the terms, by what they are doing in the battlefield,” Khalilzad told the Aspen Security Forum.
With the deadline for the US troop withdrawal just 28 days away, in a phone call Tuesday US Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Afghan President Ashraf Ghani called for a deal with the insurgents.
“The Secretary and President Ghani emphasised the need to accelerate peace negotiations and achieve a political settlement that is inclusive,” the State Department said in a readout of their call.
Khalilzad said the Afghan government and its international supporters do have leverage against the Taliban, saying they want any future Taliban-led government to receive international recognition, which they largely lacked when they held power in the 1990s.
“The Taliban say they do not want to be a pariah state,” he said.
“They said they didn’t know what recognition was when they came to power in the nineties,” he said.
Khalilzad said that some of what is holding up an agreement are “the personal interests” of leaders.