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US envoy Zalmay Khalilzad and the Taliban’s rise | Taliban Information

If one particular person might convey peace to Afghanistan, US envoy Zalmay Khalilzad touted himself as the person for the job.

Ultimately, nonetheless, the seasoned diplomat appears to have overseen nothing greater than the demise of the republic he helped assemble.

The 70-year-old envoy spent years as Washington’s level man for talks with the Taliban that paved the way for the deal to finish the US’s longest struggle and exit Afghanistan.

That milestone got here after greater than a 12 months of intense shuttle diplomacy throughout which Khalilzad visited international capitals, attended summits at glitzy resorts, and gave speeches at prestigious think-tanks.

The Taliban have been prepared to debate a compromise, he assured his audiences.

As soon as a prolific social media voice, Khalilzad has gone silent for the reason that Taliban returned to energy following the collapse of the US-backed authorities within the face of an amazing blitzkrieg.

The Division of State stated final week the envoy remained in Qatar, working the telephones in hopes of encouraging a diplomatic settlement.

However the deal he had hoped might finish the struggle had really unleashed disaster.

Husain Haqqani, a senior fellow on the Hudson Institute, stated Khalilzad advised successive US presidents desirous to withdraw their troops that he had a peace deal, however it was actually a give up.

“He negotiated poorly, emboldened the Taliban, and pretended that talks would yield a power-sharing settlement though the Taliban had no intention to share energy,” Haqqani advised AFP.

Storied profession

Khalilzad took management of the US-Afghan portfolio in 2018 after the Trump administration named him a particular envoy overseeing negotiations with the Taliban.

The brand new project adopted a storied profession. Khalilzad had formed embryonic governments in Afghanistan and Iraq following successive US invasions, gaining a popularity for bringing disparate teams to the desk.

Washington’s choice to pursue talks adopted years of rising violence in Kabul the place the Taliban unleashed chaos by sending waves of suicide bombers into the Afghan capital.

Khalilzad secured the discharge of the Taliban’s co-founder Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar from Pakistan’s custody to kick-start the initiative, with the 2 sides cobbling collectively an settlement charting US withdrawal after practically 20 years of battle.

Throughout months of negotiations in Qatar, Khalilzad was stated to have developed a detailed rapport with the Taliban delegation.

Baradar, proper, and Khalilzad shake palms after signing the US troop withdrawal settlement, February 2020 [Ibraheem al Omari/Reuters]

Photos printed on-line confirmed the gregarious envoy sharing laughs and smiles with Taliban negotiators, stirring resentment in Afghanistan the place struggle raged.

However when the US withdrawal deal was lastly signed in February 2020 at a lavish ceremony in Doha, Khalilzad had secured nothing greater than largely nebulous assurances from the Taliban about any future peace.

“Khalilzad prised… only one sturdy dedication – that they’d not assault the US and ‘its allies’,” wrote Kate Clark of the Afghanistan Analysts Community in a brand new report.

Extra imprecise have been guarantees from the Taliban to desert al-Qaeda and different worldwide armed teams, and to start speaking to the Afghan authorities.

Little time, house to manoeuvre

In hindsight, the settlement seems to have been little greater than a string of American concessions.

The US was leaving Afghanistan and not using a ceasefire and had not even established a framework for a future peace course of, one thing that will be very important for locking down a settlement to finish the struggle.

Moderately than securing compromises from the Taliban within the months following the deal, Khalilzad piled extra strain on the Afghan authorities – strong-arming the palace into releasing hundreds of Taliban prisoners who instantly bolstered their ranks.

So as to add to Kabul’s woes, the settlement successfully set off a countdown, with the US promising to drag all of its remaining troops from Afghanistan by Could 2021 – a deadline later prolonged till September. US President Joe Biden later introduced again the date to August 31

The Afghan authorities was left with little time or house to manoeuvre.

Biden’s choice in April to follow through with the withdrawal lit the ultimate fuse, sparking an all-out offensive by the Taliban that overthrew the Afghan authorities by power on August 15.

Two days earlier, US lawmaker Michael Waltz – an Afghan veteran – despatched a letter to Biden pillorying Khalilzad’s efficiency.

Khalilzad “has supplied you with poor counsel and his diplomatic technique has failed spectacularly”, he wrote.

“In mild of this disaster, Ambassador (Khalilzad) ought to resign instantly or be relieved from his place.”

That very same day, Khalilzad despatched out his final tweet – begging the Taliban to drag again its fighters as they converged on Kabul.

“We demand a right away finish to assaults towards cities, urge a political settlement, and warn {that a} authorities imposed by power can be a pariah state,” the envoy wrote.

By then, it was too late.

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