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US efforts to establish peace in Afghanistan have a new “urgency”. Some Afghans fear it could strike back

DOHA, Qatar – The United States has launched its most aggressive push for a political settlement to end two decades of conflict in Afghanistan, but some Afghan officials warn that the campaign could be counterproductive. Deadlock negotiations, undermine the elected government և deepen the country. violence

The approach, dubbed the “picture of the moon” by some US officials, citing its lofty ambitions, is an attempt to reach a peace deal this week by putting unprecedented pressure on the negotiating teams on both sides of the conflict, the Taliban and the Kabul government.

Little progress has been made at the negotiating table since the two sides met in Doha, Qatar, last year to begin historic peace talks. Meetings have been stalled for months as violence in Afghanistan escalated with the Taliban stepping up territorial influence and control.

The Trump administration focused on the withdrawal of US troops from Afghanistan. Biden’s team is putting more pressure on the diplomatic front. US-Afghanistan Policy Reviewed, US Special Envoy al-Khalim al-Khalid began a regional tour last month to lead the new approach.

But Afghan officials fear a tight schedule, with the threat of withdrawing all US troops without a political settlement risking repeating the mistakes of the 1990s, when Afghanistan was embroiled in a civil war following the Soviet Union’s withdrawal. Extensive power struggles led to the emergence of the Taliban movement, which ousted the United States from power after the September 11, 2001 attacks.

Afghan officials, like others interviewed for the story, spoke on condition of anonymity because they had no authority to discuss the matter with reporters. Afghan officials have acknowledged that the current level of violence and the political stalemate in Doha are unacceptable, but did not agree with the Biden administration’s attempt to resettle.

“The consequences for us are the collapse of the state, the sudden collapse of a very long civil war,” said an Afghan official, referring to the talks, citing heightened US pressure.

“The fact that it has happened before shows once again that it can happen again,” he said.

The second official said that “with this new initiative now promoting peace very quickly” the risk is undermining the country’s armed forces. He said he feared “bringing back the old mujahideen at the expense of the Afghan security forces”, referring to militant factions – irregular fighters who fought against Soviet forces and then turned each other up during the civil war.

The acceleration comes amid growing indications that the United States is considering delaying the withdrawal of US troops to reduce violence against the Taliban and bring it into line with last year’s deal with the United States. But Biden administration officials also say that a final decision on the future of US troops in Afghanistan has not yet been made.

During the regional tour with the participation of meetings in Kabul. Doha; և Islamabad, Pakistan, Khalilzad handed over a draft peace plan to the Afghan government և to the Taliban leadership. Along with the draft proposal, Afghan President Ashraf Ghani Ani received a letter from Secretary of State Anthony Blinken urging him to speed up peace talks and reach an agreement with the militants.

“The United States has not ruled out any option,” the letter warns. “I’m telling you this clearly so you can understand the urgency of my tone.”

A spokesman for Ghani’s office has rejected a proposal that the president is now under increasing pressure from Washington to reach a peace deal. “If there is any pressure we feel, it is pressure from the Afghan people, who have been terrorized since leaving the Soviet Union in 1979,” said Fatima Murchal, Hanni’s deputy spokeswoman.

Representatives of the Taliban in Doha also denied that the change in approach would affect the long-stalled talks.

“US pressure never works,” said Mohammad Naeem, a spokesman for the Taliban. “We know this because they have been trying all kinds of pressure for 20 years.”

Naim said the group does not expect the United States to back down in 2020. From the deal, but if it happens, “there will be problems, they will be responsible for it.”

U.S. officials say the potential risks of inaction outweigh the potential for speeding up the process.

“The new approach to ‘moving towards a political agreement at a faster pace,'” said one US official, “is the best way forward.”

“Given where we are, the alternative is more dangerous,” he said.

To many Kabul officials, the letter and the draft peace proposal, first published by Afghanistan’s ToloNews network, were shocking.

“This is not what we were promised,” said an Afghan official, referring to the talks, which described the tone of the letter as “outrageous”, despite a more consultative approach from the Biden administration.

The Afghan government has called on the Biden administration to “fully reconsider” the peace process and put more pressure on the Taliban before withdrawing US troops.

“They were hoping for a miracle,” said Fatima Gaylani, referring to members of Ghani’s government. Gaylani, one of the leading negotiators, said Afghan leaders should not be surprised by the US pressure campaign, given the comments made by President Biden’s past on wanting to end the war in Afghanistan.

Now, he said, the leaked document “brought out the reality” could awaken as a call to unite Afghanistan’s political parties.

Rustam Shah Mohmand, Pakistan’s former ambassador to Afghanistan, also supported the new US approach, but warned that some features of the US peace deal, such as details of the interim government structure, were potentially “deviant” that could “complicate matters”.

The response in Kabul already seems to reveal the widening of the lines of political guilt, rather than signaling steps towards consensus. Ghani’s main rival, Abdullah Abdullah, chairman of the Supreme Council for National Reconciliation, welcomed the new US offer.

“It is a positive starting point for promoting the peace process,” said Abdullah’s spokesman, Mujib Rahman Rahimi. Abdullah մյուս The other political rivals of the Ghani administration will benefit the most from the formation of an interim government, one of the key elements of the project.

“We do not consider the proposal a step backwards or a step towards destabilizing the country. “Rather, it is a step forward,” Rahimi said.

Afghanistan is in one of the deadliest conflicts in the world. Last year, according to the UN annual report, more than 3,000 civilians were killed and nearly 5,800 were injured in violence. Those numbers were a drop in overall civilian casualties from the previous year, but UN figures show that deaths are reaching record levels year by year.

“Ask anyone and they will tell you about losing a son or a husband or a father,” said Ihsanullah Sadiq, a peace activist in Hazn Azni, one of the country’s most volatile. Sediq, also a member of the conservative, religious Afghan political party, said: “From a humanitarian point of view, it is not acceptable for this war to continue.”

“The only way to end this war is to create a new political environment, as you like to call it,” he said. “And it must come under international pressure. “Because without it, the leaders in Kabul will not be able to tolerate each other for even a week.”

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This report was contributed by Aziz Tasal of Washington Post in Kabul and Haq Nawaz Khan of Peshawar, Pakistan.

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