U.S. Pushes U.N.-Led Peace Conference in Letter to Afghan Leader

Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken has proposed a United Nations-led peace convention in Turkey geared toward forming an inclusive Afghan authorities with the Taliban and establishing a three-month discount in violence main to a cease-fire.

In a letter to President Ashraf Ghani of Afghanistan requesting his “urgent leadership,” Mr. Blinken signaled that the Biden administration had lost religion in faltering negotiations between Mr. Ghani’s authorities and the Taliban. The unusually blunt letter, in which Mr. Blinken requested Mr. Ghani to “understand the urgency of my tone,” mirrored American frustration with the Afghan president’s typically intransigent stance in stalled peace talks.

The existence of the letter was confirmed by a U.S. official in Washington and the Afghan authorities.

Negotiations between the Afghan authorities and the Taliban started in September as a part of a February 2020 settlement between the militants and the United States. But the talks have faltered over points like a prisoner alternate and reductions in violence.

Mr. Blinken wrote that the United States had not determined whether or not to withdraw the remaining 2,500 American troops from Afghanistan by May 1, as outlined in its settlement with the Taliban. He expressed concern that “the security situation will worsen and that the Taliban could make rapid territorial gains” following a U.S. withdrawal.

The State Department declined to touch upon the letter however mentioned in an announcement that “all options remain on the table” concerning the withdrawal of American troops.

“We have not made any decisions about our force posture in Afghanistan after May 1,” the assertion mentioned.

A pullout would create monumental safety challenges for Mr. Ghani’s authorities and its overburdened safety forces.

The United Nations-led convention in Turkey would come with envoys from the United States, China, Russia, Pakistan, Iran and India “to discuss a unified approach to supporting peace in Afghanistan,” Mr. Blinken wrote.

The existence of the letter was reported after Zalmay Khalilzad, the American peace envoy, delivered an overview of U.S. coverage choices to Mr. Ghani’s authorities and Taliban negotiators final week. The proposals, supposed to reinvigorate the stalled peace negotiations, included a highway map for a future Afghan authorities with Taliban illustration, a revised Afghan structure utilizing the present one as an “initial template” and phrases for a everlasting and complete cease-fire.

The New York Times obtained a replica of the proposals, dated Feb. 28, which Afghan officers confirmed have been delivered by Mr. Khalilzad final week.

Significantly, the proposals known as for nationwide elections after the institution of a “transitional peace government of Afghanistan.” The Taliban have opposed elections, dismissing them as Western interference.

The proposals additionally embody assured rights for ladies and for spiritual and ethnic minorities, and protections for a free press. The Taliban violently suppressed girls and minorities and didn’t allow impartial information media when the group led Afghanistan from 1996 to 2001.

Taliban negotiators have mentioned they assist girls’s rights inside the strictures of Islamic legislation — the identical strictures the militants cited to ban girls from faculties and workplaces.

The define introduced by Mr. Khalilzad proposed a High Council for Islamic Jurisprudence to advise an impartial judiciary to resolve conflicts over the interpretation of Islamic legislation. The proposals acknowledged Islam because the nation’s official faith and acknowledged the significance of “Islamic values” in a future Afghan state.

The define proposed that the federal government and the Taliban every identify seven members to the High Council, with a fifteenth member appointed by the Afghan president. Similar preparations have been proposed for a fee to put together a revised structure and for a Joint Cease-fire Monitoring and Implementation Commission.

The proposals additionally known as for the Taliban to take away “their military structures and officers from neighboring countries.” Pakistan has offered a sanctuary for Taliban commanders and fighters crossing backwards and forwards into Afghanistan and has permitted the militants to keep a political council in the nation.

Both Pakistan and the Taliban are unlikely to agree to such a proposal.

An introduction to the doc mentioned it “sets forth principles for governance, security, and rule of law and presents options for power sharing that could help the two sides reach a political settlement that ends the war.”

The Biden administration has mentioned the Taliban haven’t lived up to their commitments to cut back violence and to reduce ties with extremist teams like Al Qaeda and the Islamic State. But Washington has additionally grown impatient with Mr. Ghani, who has refused to think about an interim authorities that will virtually actually finish his second five-year time period as president.

Violence has escalated in Afghanistan over the previous year, with persistent Taliban territorial positive factors and assaults on beleaguered authorities forces. Mr. Ghani’s authorities has blamed the Taliban for a sequence of focused assassinations of presidency officers and supporters, safety pressure members and their households, civil society advocates and journalists.

The Taliban have used the violence as leverage in the peace talks in Doha, Qatar, dragging out negotiations whereas awaiting a call by President Biden on the May 1 troop withdrawal.

Mr. Blinken’s letter expressed impatience with the tempo of negotiations, saying the United States supposed “to move matters more fundamentally and quickly toward a settlement and a permanent and comprehensive cease-fire.”

Asfandyar Mir, an analyst on the Center for International Security and Cooperation at Stanford University, mentioned the Biden coverage outlined in Mr. Blinken’s letter was “focused, aggressive, ambitious in scope, but also comes with enormous risks.”

He added: “It has far too many moving parts, and time is not on the side of the administration, so it can fail. There might be pushback from some U.S. allies,” notably since “the Taliban has shown limited interest in meaningful engagement.”

Mr. Mir mentioned the letter indicated that the Biden administration sees Mr. Ghani as an obstacle to peace. “It is in no mood to indulge his parochialism,” he mentioned.

Mr. Blinken’s letter, first reported by the impartial channel TOLO News in Kabul, mentioned the proposed three-month discount in violence was supposed to forestall a broadly anticipated spring offensive by the Taliban whereas giving negotiations an opportunity at a contemporary begin.

“I urge you to strongly consider the proposal,” the secretary advised Mr. Ghani.

Mr. Blinken has beforehand indicated that American troops wouldn’t stay in Afghanistan indefinitely. Many analysts say Afghan safety forces, already hollowed out by excessive casualty and desertion charges, could be arduous pressed to maintain off the Taliban with out the presence of American troops — even when Washington and coalition allies continued to present monetary help and army {hardware}.

“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,” Mr. Blinken wrote.

Adam Weinstein, analysis fellow for the Middle East on the Quincy Institute for Responsible Statecraft and a veteran of the struggle in Afghanistan, mentioned the Biden administration thought of Mr. Ghani each a obligatory accomplice and a roadblock to a peace settlement.

“This letter sends a strong message to Ghani to play ball or get out of the way,” he mentioned.

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