U.S. Pushes U.N.-Led Peace Convention in Letter to Afghan Chief

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 resulting in a cease-fire.

In a letter to President Ashraf Ghani of Afghanistan requesting his “pressing management,” Mr. Blinken signaled that the Biden administration had misplaced religion in faltering negotiations between Mr. Ghani’s authorities and the Taliban. The unusually blunt letter, through which Mr. Blinken requested Mr. Ghani to “perceive the urgency of my tone,” mirrored American frustration with the Afghan president’s usually 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 US. However the talks have faltered over points like a prisoner alternate and reductions in violence.

Mr. Blinken wrote that the US had not determined whether or not to withdraw the remaining 2,500 American troops from Afghanistan by Could 1, as outlined in its settlement with the Taliban. He expressed concern that “the safety scenario will worsen and that the Taliban might make fast territorial positive factors” following a U.S. withdrawal.

The State Division declined to touch upon the letter however mentioned in a press release that “all choices stay on the desk” relating to the withdrawal of American troops.

“Now we have not made any choices about our pressure posture in Afghanistan after Could 1,” the assertion mentioned.

A pullout would create huge 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 US, China, Russia, Pakistan, Iran and India “to debate a unified strategy 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, meant to reinvigorate the stalled peace negotiations, included a street map for a future Afghan authorities with Taliban illustration, a revised Afghan structure utilizing the present one as an “preliminary template” and phrases for a everlasting and complete cease-fire.

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

Considerably, the proposals referred to as for nationwide elections after the institution of a “transitional peace authorities of Afghanistan.” The Taliban have opposed elections, dismissing them as Western interference.

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

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

The define offered by Mr. Khalilzad proposed a Excessive 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 title seven members to the Excessive Council, with a 15th member appointed by the Afghan president. Related preparations had been proposed for a fee to organize a revised structure and for a Joint Stop-fire Monitoring and Implementation Fee.

The proposals additionally referred to as for the Taliban to take away “their navy buildings and officers from neighboring international locations.” Pakistan has offered a sanctuary for Taliban commanders and fighters crossing forwards and backwards into Afghanistan and has permitted the militants to keep up a political council within the nation.

Each Pakistan and the Taliban are unlikely to comply with such a proposal.

An introduction to the doc mentioned it “units forth ideas for governance, safety, and rule of legislation and presents choices for energy sharing that might assist the 2 sides attain a political settlement that ends the conflict.”

The Biden administration has mentioned the Taliban haven’t lived as much as their commitments to scale back violence and to chop ties with extremist teams like Al Qaeda and the Islamic State. However Washington has additionally grown impatient with Mr. Ghani, who has refused to contemplate an interim authorities that might virtually definitely finish his second five-year time period as president.

Violence has escalated in Afghanistan over the previous 12 months, with persistent Taliban territorial positive factors and assaults on beleaguered authorities forces. Mr. Ghani’s authorities has blamed the Taliban for a collection 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 within the peace talks in Doha, Qatar, dragging out negotiations whereas awaiting a choice by President Biden on the Could 1 troop withdrawal.

Mr. Blinken’s letter expressed impatience with the tempo of negotiations, saying the US meant “to maneuver issues extra basically and rapidly towards a settlement and a everlasting and complete cease-fire.”

Asfandyar Mir, an analyst on the Middle for Worldwide Safety and Cooperation at Stanford College, mentioned the Biden coverage outlined in Mr. Blinken’s letter was “targeted, aggressive, formidable in scope, but in addition comes with huge dangers.”

He added: “It has far too many shifting components, and time just isn’t on the aspect of the administration, so it will probably fail. There may be pushback from some U.S. allies,” significantly since “the Taliban has proven restricted curiosity in significant engagement.”

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

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

“I urge you to strongly contemplate the proposal,” the secretary instructed 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 onerous pressed to carry off the Taliban with out the presence of American troops — even when Washington and coalition allies continued to offer monetary support and navy {hardware}.

“I need to additionally clarify to you, Mr. President, that as our coverage course of continues in Washington, the US has not dominated out any choice,” Mr. Blinken wrote.

Adam Weinstein, analysis fellow for the Center East on the Quincy Institute for Accountable Statecraft and a veteran of the conflict in Afghanistan, mentioned the Biden administration thought-about Mr. Ghani each a mandatory associate and a roadblock to a peace settlement.

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

Fatima Faizi contributed reporting from Kabul, Afghanistan.

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