The Taliban ramped up its rhetoric Monday against peace talks and vowed to disrupt the looming parliamentary elections soon after the Trump administration’s appointee to lead peace talks arrived in Kabul over the weekend.
Zalmay Khalilzad, a former U.S. ambassador to Kabul now serving as a senior American envoy, arrived in the Afghan capital on Sunday, marking his first trip to Afghanistan since the Trump administration appointed him to lead peace negotiations with the Taliban, the Agence France-Presse (AFP) agency indicated.
Last week, the U.S. Department of State (DOS) noted that Afghan-born Khalilzad is scheduled to visit Pakistan, the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, and Qatar as part of a ten-day trip to “coordinate and lead US efforts to bring the Taliban to the negotiating table.”
On Sunday night, Khalilzad discussed “an Afghan-led and Afghan-owned peace process” in talks with President Ashraf Ghani and other top leaders, according to the president’s office.
The Ghani office reportedly quoted Khalilzad as saying, “Peace is a holy process, and the U.S. government and people are united with the Afghan government and people in this process.”
Referring to the U.S. peace envoy, AFP pointed out, “His arrival comes as the Taliban and the Islamic State [ISIS/ISIL] group ramp up attacks across the country ahead of this month’s long-delayed parliamentary elections that are seen as a dry run for next year’s presidential vote.”
Although the U.S. and Afghan governments have intensified efforts to reach a peace deal with the Taliban and end the 17-year war, the terrorists have continued to carry out attacks.
In July, the Taliban did meet with a top Trump administration official to discuss peace. Nevertheless, the terrorist group on Monday urged Afghans to boycott the elections and reject peace talks.
In a statement, the Taliban proclaimed:
The Islamic Emirate [Taliban] calls upon the nation, for the sake of protecting the broader national interests and for the prevention of this significant and decisive process being used for the malicious objectives of foreign occupiers, to completely boycott the whole electoral procedure and not participate in it by denying its value and credibility … The Islamic Emirate instructs all its Mujahidin to halt this American led process throughout the country by creating severe obstacles for it, while taking extensive and intensive care of civilian Afghan lives and their properties.
The Taliban reiterated its demand for a full withdrawal of U.S.-led troops from Afghanistan as the only solution to end the war, declaring, “[T]he real solution of the ongoing Afghan crisis lies in the complete withdrawal of all foreign occupying forces and the restoration of a pure Islamic sovereignty herein.”
“Taliban, who are fighting to expel foreign forces, topple the government and restore their version of hardline Islamic law, have repeatedly rejected offers to hold peace talks or support the polls,” Reuters acknowledged.
The Trump administration has deemed pressuring the Taliban into “reconciliation” with Kabul the top goal of is strategy to end the war.
U.S. officials have expressed support for the olive branch Afghan President Ghani has extended to the Taliban — a ceasefire and official recognition as a political group.
Soon after invading Afghanistan on October 7, 2001, the U.S. military ended the Taliban’s rule over the country that began in 1996.
President Ghani is offering the jihadi group, which controls or contests nearly half of Afghanistan, an opportunity to potentially rule again legitimately.
A recent poll by the Pew Research Center found that nearly half of Americans believe “the United States has mostly failed in achieving its goals there while about a third (35 percent) say it has mostly succeeded.”
The U.S. deployed its military to Afghanistan to combat the Taliban and al-Qaeda in response to the 9/11 attacks.
More than 17 years later, both groups remain a threat.