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article imageOp-Ed: US Afghan envoy meets with Taliban officials in Pakistan

By Ken Hanly     Oct 6, 2019 in Politics
The US special envoy to Afghanistan and former peace negotiator Zalmay Khalilzad was in Pakistan yesterday and reports indicate he spent an hour meeting with a top Taliban delegation.
This was the first US, Taliban meeting since on Sept. 9 after cancelling a meeting with the Taliban announced peace talks were dead:" "They are dead, they are dead," Trump told reporters on the White House south lawn. "As far as I'm concerned, they are dead."|
The Taliban met earlier with Pakistan's foreign minister
A recent article reports on the meeting: "A high-level Taliban delegation on Thursday met Pakistan's foreign minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi as part of a push to revive the Afghan peace process stalled after US President Donald Trump abruptly declared the talks with the rebel group "dead".The Taliban delegation led by Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar arrived in Islamabad on Wednesday night.""
Qureshi told the delegation that war was not a solution of problems in Afghanistan. The Taliban had asked Qureshi for Pakistan to intervene to help start peace talks again. No doubt this is why Khalilzad went to Islamabad in such short order.
There were no formal negotiations at the Taliban Khalilzad meeting
The Taliban appear to be aiming at building confidence to start the talks going again. The Taliban have reportedly reaffirmed their commitment to the previous agreement in principle that would see a partial withdrawal of US troops while an agreement was worked out with Afghans including some government representatives but in their personal capacity. The Taliban refuse to negotiate directly with the Afghan government as they consider it a US puppet.
There is no statement yet from the State Dept. or Trump on what is happening
The US has given no indication of being ready to restart talks. Trump's policy on Afghanistan has been inconsistent even irrational. When campaigning for president Trump insisted that US troops should come home and he has often been critical of the US presence. As late as August 20th he said: "“We’re having good discussions. We’ll see what happens. It’s 18 years. We’re not really fighting. We’re almost a police force over there. We’re not supposed to be a police force,” he said."
However Trump's rhetoric is often extreme and often only serves to infuriate those he is supposed to be helping. For example he said: "“I have plans on Afghanistan that, if I wanted to win that war, Afghanistan would be wiped off the face of the Earth. It would be gone,” he said.“It would be over in – literally, in 10 days. And I don’t want to do – I don’t want to go that route.” "Trump said he did not want to kill 10 million people. The remarks full of arrogance and hubris about US power angered many. Khalilzad tried to soothe ruffled feathers and explained that the remarks were meant to argue that a diplomatic solution was the correct path.
Even though an peace agreement in principle with the Taliban had been reached, Trump suddenly announced that talks were off. Both sides had been launching attacks to attain leverage during talks but the talks still progressed to the point where an agreement in principle had been reached. However, an attack by the Taliban which killed a number of people also killed one US soldier. This seems to have been a huge irritation to Trump who changed course immediately. As a recent article notes: "Most recently Trump suggested it was likely impossible for the Taliban to make up for the death of a US soldier a couple of months ago, which was his reasoning for scrapping the peace process in the first place."
After 18 years in Afghanistan the US shows no sign of leaving but has stepped up attacks on the Taliban after the collapse of the peace talks. There is no end of the war in sight. As the US is mostly involved in air missions and help with training of Afghan forces US casualties are likely to be limited. However, there are bound to be some. The Afghans themselves will bear the brunt of casualties in the continuing conflict but since the dead are not in the millions Trump is not concerned enough to sign a peace agreement. The appended video from Al Jazeera gives some reasonable explanations as to why Trump did not sign the agreement. They may very well be correct but then Trump's actions often seem not to be based upon reason.
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of
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