Mumbai, April 29: US’s Special envoy to Afghanistan Zalmay Khalilzad during his recent visit to Kabul, had a larger message to convey even as his government is engaging with the Taliban to bring peace to the war-torn nation. Khalilzad said, "If the Taliban insist on going back to the system they used to have, in my personal opinion it means the continuation of war not peace."
Afghan-born Khalilzad, speaking in Dari to the Tolo News channel said that during his negotiations, the Taliban admitted that their government "made a lot mistakes" when it was in power from 1996-2001, and "they have learned a lot".
However, peace still seems a long-way off as the Taliban have till date refused to engage with the Afghan government and have only spoken through U.S. interlocutors. Khalilzad was hoping to bring the two sides to the discussion table in Doha, Qatar but the Taliban cancelled the talks on the grounds of an over-sized delegation representing the Ashraf Ghani-government. Khalilzad admitted that the talks have come to a halt. "We have started discussion for the withdrawal of the (US) forces, but for the past few weeks my struggles were focused on providing a ground for intra-Afghan talks," Khalilzad said. "That is the first step for further discussion, but there has been no proper progress yet."
Khalilzad also tried to re-assure those in Afghanistan who do not want a return of the dark days of the Taliban rule, saying “It is not true that the withdrawal of the foreign forces from Afghanistan will happen ahead of a peace deal," he said on Saturday. Saying Washington wants to end peace mission "responsibly," Khalilzad said, "We learned from the then USSR experience that withdrawal at that time led to bad happenings in Afghanistan...We don't want this to be repeated.”
The US Special envoy to Afghanistan is visiting seven countries in the region, including India to appraise the neighbouring governments on the progress of the peace talks with the Taliban.