US Special Representative for Afghanistan Reconciliation Zalmay Khalilzad, who has met failure upon failure in his mission over the last few months, has again mustered hope and tweeted that a “bump in the road isn’t reason to slow down”.
The “bump in the road” reference in his message is to the spring offensive the Afghan Taliban have announced against the government in Kabul. The UN Security Council has already denounced the offensive and called for a thaw in hostilities.
All along, for all Mr Khalilzad’s endeavours, the Taliban have shown no willingness to sit down with representatives of the Afghan government. They only want to talk with the US and they want direct talks.
Mr Khalilzad has been to Pakistan recently. Here he met Prime Minister Imran Khan, Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi and Chief of Army Staff Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa. Pakistan already has a role in facilitating the dialogue between the Taliban and the US currently going on in Qatar and Dubai. It has been acknowledged by international actors and criticized by those who want Khalilzad not to engage Pakistan.
Such elements tend to forget that Pakistan is not the only country where he has been. Besides frequenting Kabul, he has visited India and China. Now the United Nations Security Council is also on board.
The Taliban appear to be confident that time is on their side. They are in no hurry for a dialogue. The situation is different for the US government which, given President Trumps’s decision to pull US forces out of Afghanistan, wants the issue resolved as early as possible. As election season approaches, a long delay in withdrawal of US forces from Afghanistan can put pressure on President Trump, a part of whose appeal stems from his commitment to get out of Afghanistan.
Mr Khalilzad has been to every country with a stake in Afghanistan except Iran. In a recent visit to Iran, Prime Minister Imran Khan is reported to have said that Pakistan has been luckier than Afghanistan in countering terrorism. Iran and Pakistan have now agreed to form a joint force for border security. They have also agreed that peace in Afghanistan is vital for peace in the region.
It is time for the US to understand that it cannot afford to ignore Iran if it wants to resolve the Afghan issue. The sooner Mr Khalilzad acknowledges that what they have at their hands in Afghanistan is more than a mere “bump” the better.
Source : https://dailytimes.com.pk/381982/a-road-bump-a-can-be-a-stumbling-block/?fbclid=IwAR2dvtfNbBD_bELxj7J9EWBltR3IiEG6cLvtT7oxWHHjPJ_4kGhMxd0y5vI