Afghan Politicians React to US Sec. Blinken’s Letter

Afghan politicians saw significance in the fact that the letter was sent to both Afghan leaders.

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Afghan politicians reacted to the US Secretary of State Antony Blinken’s letter to Afghan leaders stressing the urgency for peace efforts, saying, among other things, the letter highlights a stronger role for US special envoy Zalmay Khalilzad in the peace process.

The letter, seen by TOLOnews, proposes a United Nations-led conference in Turkey on Afghanistan’s peace.

The politicians said that the recent calls between the US secretary of state, the US national security adviser and Afghan NSA Hamdullah Mohib could not change the Afghan government’s stance on peace and therefore Mr. Blinken produced this blunt letter.

Afghan politicians also believe that the way the letter has been sent “has reduced” President Ghani’s political status, but the Afghan foreign minister said such communication is normal.

“We allowed for this in our diplomacy–that such contacts are made; therefore, I don’t see it as a type of offense or indifference,” Foreign Affairs Minister Mohammad Haneef Atmar said.

The First Vice President Amrullah Saleh had a direct and harsh reaction to the letter, saying that it will not change the Afghan government’s position on the peace process.

Referring to Saleh’s remarks, Atmar said: “What is important is not the way the letter has been sent, but the context of the letter, which stresses once again the common interests of Afghanistan and the US … and the need for cooperation between the two countries.”

Afghan politicians saw significance in the fact that the letter was sent to both President Ghani and Chairman Abdullah Abdullah.

“The letter shows that Dr. Ghani and Abdullah Abdullah are seen as equal… It means that if Ghani opposes it, the US gives the weight to Abdullah to move the peace process forward,” university lecturer Faiz Mohammad Zaland said.

The US secretary of state has held a phone conversation with President Ghani, and the US defense secretary has spoken with the Afghan president as well.

Afghan analysts said that the letter shows that Khalilzad’s job is vital for the United States.

“The message of the letter was that the people’s situation should be addressed, the unending war should be addressed,” said Sattar Murad, head of the political committee of the Jamiat-e-Islami party of Afghanistan.

Politicians from Afghanistan, including President Ghani and Abdullah Abdullah, as well as foreign envoys, are expected to attend a meeting hosted by Moscow within the next 10 days to discuss the Afghan peace process.

“A conference will be held. Some figures have been invited. The reconciliation council chairman has also been invited,” the reconciliation council’s spokesman Fraidoon Khwazoon said.

This comes as Khalilzad recently traveled to Pakistan after his visit to Kabul and Doha. Reports indicate that he has met with military and civilian officials in Islamabad about the new proposed draft for Afghan peace.

Blinken’s Letter to Ghani

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken in a letter to President Ashraf Ghani seen by TOLOnews put forth suggestions to the Afghan government to accelerate the peace process, including convening a UN-facilitated conference with international stakeholders, proposals to facilitate discussion between the two sides to form a negotiated settlement and ceasefire, a meeting in Turkey between both sides to finalize a peace agreement, and a revised proposal for a 90-day reduction in violence.  However, along with these proposals, Blinken made clear that the United States is considering all options regarding Afghanistan, including the May 1st deadline for full withdrawal.

This letter is reportedly similar to one shared with the chairman of the High Council for National Reconciliation, Abdullah Abdullah.

First, Blinken suggests that the UN should convene a meeting of foreign ministers and envoys from Russia, China, Pakistan, Iran, India and the US to discuss a unified approach to supporting peace in Afghanistan.

Second, US envoy Zalmay Khalilzad should share with President Ghani and the Taliban leaders written proposals “aimed at accelerating discussions on a negotiated settlement and ceasefire. “These proposals reflect some of the ideas included in the roadmap for the peace process,” Blinken wrote. On this point, Blinken elaborated: “In sharing these documents, we do not intend to dictate terms to the parties…. Rather the documents will enable the Islamic Republic and the Taliban to move urgently to the tasks of developing a) the foundational principles that will guide Afghanistan’s future constitutional and governing arrangements b) a roadmap to a new, inclusive government and c) the terms of a permanent and comprehensive ceasefire.”

Third, Blinken says Turkey will be asked to host a senior-level meeting of both sides in the coming weeks to finalize a peace agreement. Blinken urges Ghani or his “authoritative designees” to attend the meeting.

Blinken, in his fourth point, says the US has prepared a revised proposal for a 90-day reduction in violence, “which is intended to prevent a spring offensive by the Taliban and to coincide with our diplomatic efforts to support a political settlement between the two parties.” He asked President Ghani to “positively consider” the proposal for the reduction in violence.

Following his outline of these suggested steps, President Ghani said in the letter that the United States has not ruled out any option regarding Afghanistan:

“I must also make clear to you Mr. President, that as our policy process continues in Washington, The United States has not ruled out any option. We are considering the full withdrawal of our forces by May 1st, as we consider other options,” he writes.

Further, Blinken writes that even with the continuation of the US financial assistance to Afghan forces after an American withdrawal, he is “concerned that the security situation will worsen and that the Taliban could make rapid territorial gains” and that he shares this so that President Ghani “understands the urgency of my tone regarding the collective work outlined in this letter.”

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Blinken’s Letter Will Not Change Govt Stance on Peace: Saleh

Saleh warned that there will never be any compromise on Afghanistan’s Constitution and on the people’s right to vote.

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US Secretary Antony Blinken’s letter to President Ashraf Ghani, in which he seeks to kick-start the stalled peace process, “may have surprised many,” however, for the Afghan government, it was “not a concern” and the government will not change its stance on reconciliation efforts, said First Vice President Amrullah Saleh at an event on Monday.  

In this blunt letter, Blinken proposed a United Nations-led peace conference in Turkey aimed at forming an inclusive Afghan government with the Taliban and establishing a three-month reduction in violence that will lead to a ceasefire.

But Saleh warned that there will never be any compromise on Afghanistan’s Constitution and on the people’s right to vote.

The first vice president, who addressed an event marking the 7th anniversary of the death of Marshal Mohammad Qasim Fahim, said Afghanistan will not accept “illegitimate demands” that negate the people’s right to vote.

“Our relations with the West and the Americans are fundamental, but whenever our interests are violated, we inform our nation.”

“We will not ignore our Constitution,” Saleh said, adding that “we can discuss the election and the date but will never let anyone take the people’s right to vote.”

He said the United States can hold a conference and decide on the presence of its troops in Afghanistan or negotiate with the Taliban but added that it is the legitimate right of the Afghan government to not compromise based on others’ calendar over the fate of 35 million people in Afghanistan.

“We need peace,” Saleh said. “We understand that peace is a need for us. No one will stand against peace. We will make peace with dignity.”

He added: “We will never accept a coerced and imposed peace.”

Echoing President Ashraf Ghani’s recent remarks, Saleh said the republic’s side is ready to agree on the date of the election “if the Taliban agree on the principle of elections with us.”

“We will never bow to a deal by some individuals that endangers the system, our achievements and the people’s right to vote,” Saleh said.

At the same event, Abdullah Abdullah, the chairman of the High Council for National Reconciliation, said he received the letter two days ahead of US special envoy Zalmay Khalilzad’s trip to Kabul.

Abdullah cautiously supported the US remarks in the letter and said that “although I don’t want to defend the letter, there are important issues that have been brought up in it.”

“No one can impose anything on the people of Afghanistan,” Abdullah said. “Division, discrimination and disunity allow anything to be imposed on us.”

Abdullah reiterated that the right to vote is one of the biggest achievements of Afghans that should not be compromised.

Another Afghan politician and senior advisor to Ghani, Mohammad Mohaqiq, meanwhile echoed Saleh’s remarks, saying the country’s achievements of the last two decades will not be ignored.

Mohaqiq said that “coercive” language and a “coerced” peace are not possible in Afghanistan. “The weakness in the message of the US State Department is that they have not recognized Afghanistan’s structure and it has coercive language and a coerced and tailored peace will not lead anywhere,” he said.

He added that countries should consider Afghanistan’s dignity.

“When we say that the Taliban must join it is because we have a system, an army, human rights and Constitution. Why should we join the Taliban? We do not want to fight against any party to join them in mountains.” Mohaqiq said.

Meanwhile, EU special envoy for Afghanistan, Roland Kobia, indirectly referred to the letter, saying in a tweet that “Afghanistan has a Constitution, had elections, held Loya Jirgas, has Joint Declaration with the US, is engaged in Doha process.”

He said the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan has the support of the “vast majority” of the international community, and “the world in United Nations Security Council and Geneva has committed to protect achievements and Republic.”

Blinken’s Letter to Ghani  

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken in a letter to President Ashraf Ghani seen by TOLOnews put forth suggestions to the Afghan government to accelerate the peace process, including convening a UN-facilitated conference with international stakeholders, proposals to facilitate discussion between the two sides to form a negotiated settlement and ceasefire, a meeting in Turkey between both sides to finalize a peace agreement, and a revised proposal for a 90-day reduction in violence.  However, along with these proposals, Blinken made clear that the United States is considering all options regarding Afghanistan, including the May 1st deadline for full withdrawal.

This letter is reportedly similar to one shared with the chairman of the High Council for National Reconciliation, Abdullah Abdullah.

First, Blinken suggests that the UN should convene a meeting of foreign ministers and envoys from Russia, China, Pakistan, Iran, India and the US to discuss a unified approach to supporting peace in Afghanistan.

Second, US envoy Zalmay Khalilzad should share with President Ghani and the Taliban leaders written proposals “aimed at accelerating discussions on a negotiated settlement and ceasefire. “These proposals reflect some of the ideas included in the roadmap for the peace process,” Blinken wrote. On this point, Blinken elaborated: “In sharing these documents, we do not intend to dictate terms to the parties…. Rather the documents will enable the Islamic Republic and the Taliban to move urgently to the tasks of developing a) the foundational principles that will guide Afghanistan’s future constitutional and governing arrangements b) a roadmap to a new, inclusive government and c) the terms of a permanent and comprehensive ceasefire.”

Third, Blinken says Turkey will be asked to host a senior-level meeting of both sides in the coming weeks to finalize a peace agreement. Blinken urges Ghani or his “authoritative designees” to attend the meeting.

Blinken, in his fourth point, says the US has prepared a revised proposal for a 90-day reduction in violence, “which is intended to prevent a spring offensive by the Taliban and to coincide with our diplomatic efforts to support a political settlement between the two parties.” He asked President Ghani to “positively consider” the proposal for the reduction in violence.

Following his outline of these suggested steps, President Ghani said in the letter that the United States has not ruled out any option regarding Afghanistan:

“I must also make clear to you Mr. President, that as our policy process continues in Washington, The United States has not ruled out any option. We are considering the full withdrawal of our forces by May 1st, as we consider other options,” he writes.

Further, Blinken writes that even with the continuation of the US financial assistance to Afghan forces after an American withdrawal, he is “concerned that the security situation will worsen and that the Taliban could make rapid territorial gains” and that he shares this so that President Ghani “understands the urgency of my tone regarding the collective work outlined in this letter.”

Afghan Politicians React to US Sec. Blinken’s Letter