US peace negotiator demands Taliban shun violence

By Shadi Khan Saif

KABUL, Afghanistan (AA) – The top US peace broker warned Saturday that if the Taliban do not choose peace, a future based on consensus and compromise, the US will stand with the Afghan government.

After a shuttle diplomacy tour of Central Asia, Zalmay Khalilzad, US Special Representative for Afghanistan Reconciliation, said there was a unique international consensus for peace, rooted in support for a negotiated settlement, an end to violence and rejection of any attempt to impose a military solution in Afghanistan.

He stressed that leaders from all sides of the conflict should seize the opportunity and negotiate a political settlement to end the war.

"International consensus does not stop at peace. The world remains steadfast in its support of Afghanistan as the country enters a new phase," tweeted the veteran Afghanistan-born US diplomat.

Since the announcement of an exit date of September 2021 for American troops by US President Joe Biden, Afghanistan has witnessed a spike in deadly Taliban assaults across its provinces that has led to mounting casualties on all sides.

At the moment, in a show of support for Afghanistan, western diplomats and envoys said Friday that no government by force would be accepted in the war-ravaged country. In a joint communique, the Special Envoys and Special Representatives of the European Union, France, Germany, Italy, NATO, Norway, the United Kingdom and the US on the Afghan Peace Process highlighted the need to accelerate the pace of peace negotiations and committed to work with the Afghan government, Taliban and other Afghan political and civil society leaders to reach a comprehensive and sustainable peace agreement and political compromise that will end the war for the benefit of all Afghans and that contributes to regional stability and global security.

A western diplomat in Kabul told Anadolu Agency that diplomatic pressure continued to be exerted on the Taliban to attend a forthcoming Istanbul conference that was postponed last month because of a reluctance by the insurgents to show up for talks.

"The discussion we have with the Afghanistan neighbors, all want an Afghanistan at peace and stable, they value and support the Islamic Republic, and express in disinterest in the restoration of the Islamic Emirate," said the diplomat who did not want to be named.

The EU and US, in a statement on Friday, strongly condemned the continued violence in Afghanistan “for which the Taliban are largely responsible and demanded all parties to take immediate and necessary steps to reduce violence and in particular, to avoid civilian casualties in order to create an environment conducive to reaching a political settlement.”

They also urged the Taliban to stop an undeclared spring offensive, to refrain from attacks against civilians, and to immediately stop all attacks in the vicinity of hospitals, schools, universities, mosques and civilian areas.