Khalilzad encourages regional countries to back peace process

  • Date of Publication : 25/07/2020 at 12:36 GMT

US Special Representative for Afghanistan Reconciliation, Zalmay Khalilzad, said in Washington on Friday it was time for Central Asian countries to encourage both the Afghan government and the Taliban to pursue peace as peace and stability will have a significant impact on the region.

Speaking at a United States Institute of Peace online forum, Khalilzad said this was “a defining moment for Afghanistan and the region.”

What happens in Afghanistan will have a significant impact on the region, he said.

He said now is the time for peace to be pursued in Afghanistan as peace will facilitate development, stability, trade and integration.

“The United States has been active on both tracks, the track of peace in Afghanistan and the track of regional integration, regional trade; and developing a common vision for regional development, security and prosperity between Central Asian countries and Afghanistan and between Afghanistan and South Asia starting with Pakistan,” he said.

Khalilzad went on to state that this was “in the hope that ultimately over time Afghanistan can bring the Central Asian nations and the South Asian nations together for a common, glorious objective of a peaceful, prosperous and stable region.”

He said the US was very much committed to doing their part to achieve both objectives – the objective of peace and the objective of regional cooperation.

He said the war in Afghanistan has been an obstacle to the potential of security, development and prosperity and it has been a huge burden on the people of Afghanistan, “who are yearning for peace”.

He also said the war has been a burden on the international community – especially the United States.

But despite an agreement having been signed between the US and the Taliban in February, two issues stand in the way of Afghan-led peace talks. He said: “One is the issue of prisoners.”

The second issue is that of violence, he said.

“Violence has been too high,” he said adding that the US has been working with both the government of Afghanistan as well as with the Taliban to encourage a reduction of violence by all sides. Too many Afghans are dying.”

He said the US is also delivering to the Afghan government and the Afghan security forces and is “consistent with the agreement signed with the Taliban.”

He said he hopes the levels of violence will reduce in the coming weeks.

However, he stated that the number of Afghan security forces killed this year is between 35 and 40 percent less than last year for the same period.

“The number of civilians killed is also significantly lower than for the same period compared to last year.”

Khalilzad also confirmed that since the signing of the US-Taliban agreement in February, no American or coalition soldier has been killed by the Taliban in Afghanistan.

However, he said the US was not satisfied with the levels of violence, despite them being lower than last year. “We want further reductions,” he said.

Meanwhile, the role of the region with regards to the peace process was also important, he said.

Regional countries could help encourage the Afghan government and the Taliban to overcome challenges and help encourage compromises “on a political roadmap that can end the Afghan war”.

He went on to state that regional countries could also help to sustain a peace agreement – once an agreement has been reached.

With peace, economic development can take place, he said adding that the US was also currently working on an agreement between Afghanistan and Pakistan, with the help of the UK.

He said this was in line with the peace process but also included the issue of broadening and developing further economic ties with Pakistan.