Failure to hold intra-Afghan talks could lead to conflict: Khalilzad

Failure on the part of the Taliban to enter into intra-Afghan dialogue could lead to violence and even conflict over time, Washington’s former special envoy for Afghanistan Zalmay Khalilzad warned this week.

In an interview with TRT World, which was broadcast on Tuesday, Khalilzad said he believes the Taliban are repeating mistakes made in the country over the past 40 years but that he thinks it’s “unlikely” that Afghanistan will “achieve the kind of priority” that it was given after 9/11 and during the time the US had forces in the country.

He put this down to changes in the world, and the “great power competition”, as well as the lack of a roadmap for success. He said “America got frustrated” , and the profile of terrorism had changed.

He acknowledged that “some Afghans” had been unhappy about how the Doha talks played out but he stated that in his opinion a “golden opportunity that was there was not taken advantage of.”

According to Khalilzad, Taliban are making some “serious mistakes” in his opinion but no one, except the group, can ultimately solve the problems.

He stated that the only way to solve the issues was for all people in Afghanistan to “broadly” reach an agreement on a “formula”. He said the Taliban need to start a consultative process on this, implying that in future, when power changes hands, a civil war will not break out.

He stated that Taliban policies also need to respect the views of society, including views related to education adding that “there are rumors that they may move even further and may even prevent girls from going to university.”

“That would be devastating,” he said, adding that such a move would lead to an outcry by the international community and by “the Afghans themselves”.

The Taliban also need to do a better job at “providing services”, he said.

He acknowledged the economy “was in poor shape”, attributing part of this to international sanctions but stated the fundamental structure of the Doha Agreement, signed in 2019, should be revisited as this was the best “framework” to work within given that the US government had supported the fundamental parts of this accord.

He stated that another key issue had been “a new Afghan government based on inter-Afghan negotiations.

“So they need to start the process of conversing with each other and agreeing to a process for a government that has a broad mandate from the people,” he said.

Khalilzad warned that unless this happens there could be the possibility of further migration and the possibility of more violence and “even actual conflict over time”.

In conclusion he said the Taliban need to learn from the mistakes of the past.