The US is working on proposing a UN conference to reach a settlement in the long war in Afghanistan. It also hopes the conference will boost the chances of a 90-day plan to reduce violence and prevent the Taiban’s customary “spring offensive”,
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken has reportedly sent a letter to Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, proposing a UN conference, attended by Iran among others.
Tolonews on Sunday published a copy of an undated letter it said was from Mr Blinken to Mr Ghani, with another copy to the Chairman of the High Council for National Reconciliation, Dr Abdullah Abdullah, proposing a peace conference under UN auspices.
“We intend to ask the UN to convene foreign ministers and envoys from Russia, China, Pakistan, Iran, India and the US to discuss a unified approach to supporting peace in Afghanistan,” Mr Blinken said in the letter.
The US also hopes the conference will boost the chances of a 90-day plan to reduce violence and prevent the Taiban’s customary “spring offensive”, the letter said.
Mr Blinken said the US would ask Turkey to host a senior-level meeting of both sides in the coming weeks to finalise a peace agreement.
Sources in Kabul confirmed to The National that there will be a high-level meeting in Turkey between the Taliban and the Afghan government.
A US state department official neither confirmed nor denied the letter from Mr Blinken.
“As a general matter, we do not comment on alleged correspondence with foreign leaders,” the official told The National.
“Ambassador Khalilzad’s trip represents a continuation of American diplomacy in the region.
“We have not made any decisions about our force posture in Afghanistan after May 1.”
But the official said that “all options remain on the table”.
The conference would be similar to the Bonn gathering held in 2001, which put a structure in place for a political process in Afghanistan after the invasion.
It involved representatives from a wide range of Afghan parties as international agencies and diplomats pushed them to a solution.
Anti-Taliban leaders met in the German city after the US-led invasion removed the insurgents from power and agreed on a provisional administration and a roadmap for forming a permanent government and writing a new constitution.
US special envoy to Afghanistan Zalmay Khalilzad, who just returned from a trip to Kabul and is now visiting Doha along with “other regional capitals”, is pushing for a shake-up of the stalled peace process, including an interim government and a conference of key players, Reuters reported.
Mr Khalilzad is the only US envoy who served in the Trump administration and has kept the portfolio under that of President Joe Biden.
In Kabul, he met dr Abdullah, Mr Ghani and other political and civil society leaders, including former president Hamid Karzai.
The US is also proposing an interim government arrangement, referred to as a participatory or representative government.
“We’re considering a number of different ideas that might accelerate the process,” State Department spokesman Ned Price said on Friday.
But Mr Khalilzad’s plans immediately met objections from the Afghan government and the Taliban.
Mr Ghani made a fiery speech in Parliament on Saturday, repeating his refusal to step aside for an interim government.
“Any institution can write a fantasy on a piece of paper and suggest a solution for Afghanistan,” he said.
Mr Ghani said any transfer of power would have to take place through elections, as required by the constitution.
A Taliban official in Doha told Reuters the group would not join an interim government but was not opposed to one being formed.