May 19, 2021
KABUL: The U.S. appointed man for Afghanistan reconciliation, Zalmay Khalilzad vows that the Taliban group’s military victory will face regional and international opposition as well as sanctions.
Khalilzad argued that the Taliban have reason not to push for a military victory and instead pursue a negotiated political settlement that could give them international legitimacy and removal from certain American and United Nations sanctions.
He said that the fears of Taliban overrunning the Afghan security forces and conquering of the country after the withdrawal of coalition troops are “overblown”.
“I personally believe that the statements that their forces will disintegrate and the Talibs will take over in short order are mistaken,” Zalmay Khalilzad told the House Foreign Affairs Committee, whose members expressed deep worry that President Joe Biden’s decision to fully withdraw by September will lead to chaos and intensified civil war.
His remarks come after the U.S. lawmakers and top military officials earlier preferred the presence of the American service members in Afghanistan. The U.S. chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen, Mark Milley has expressed hope that the Afghan security forces could hold up if Washington continues some forms of support.
“On the one hand you get some really dramatic, bad possible outcomes,” Milley said May 2. “On the other hand, you get a military that stays together and a government that stays together.”
President Ashraf Ghani said that the decision would lead to the battlefield if the Taliban denied to set in for negotiations.
The National Security Adviser, Hamdullah Mohib in an interview with the CBS, said that Afghanistan preferred the remaining of the American forces for a few more years.
Khalilzad gave speech to the U.S. house of foreign affairs committee on Tuesday. Rep. Michael McCaul, a Texas Republican, who also is critic of troops withdrawal, asserted that there is “zero chance” the Taliban will abide by the commitments their leaders made in a February 2020 agreement with the Trump administration, which included engaging in sustained peace negotiations and severing all forms of cooperation with and support for al-Qaida.
“It seems all but certain the Taliban will try to overrun the country and return it to a pre-9/11 state after we have withdrawn,” McCaul said. “They’ve already ramped up their attacks, taking new territory and bases since the (Biden) announcement was made. Without a military presence in country, the U.S. is giving them room to deepen their relationship with terrorist groups like al-Qaida, who may seek to launch external attacks on us and our allies from the country once again.”
There are also concerns over a Taliban takeover could lead to repression of women and reprisals against Afghans who helped the U.S. mission over the years.
Khalilzad has recently met with Taliban representatives in Doha, Qatar, as part of a round of consultations with interested parties.
“They say they seek normalcy in terms of relations — acceptability, removal from sanctions, not to remain a pariah,” Khalilzad said.
The Taliban ruled the country in 1996 and denied the U.S. call to hand over Osama, Bin Laden, the leader of the al-Qaida terrorist network- the organizer oof the September 11 attack in the U.S. Osama escaped to Pakistan after the U.S. engaged in military operations to eliminate the Taliban. He was shot and killed by US Navy SEALs inside a private residential compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan in 2011.
Khalilzad, a former U.S. ambassador to Kabul who led negotiations on the February 2020 deal, told the committee that while he is not fully convinced, Taliban representatives have told him their views have changed since the 1990s. He said they have acknowledged not being prepared to govern at that time and that their governance was a failure.
“We are all skeptical, of course,” he said, wondering if the Taliban are “just sugar-coating what they actually will do.”
He said the Taliban have not interfered in any substantial way with the U.S. military withdrawal, and added, “We expect that to continue.” He said diplomatic efforts are under way to seek agreements with neighboring countries to position U.S. counterterrorism forces within strike distance of Afghanistan to able to respond to future threats.