Pakistan advises Biden admin to speak directly to Taliban
ISLAMABAD: As the Afghan peace process hangs in the balance, Pakistan has advised the Biden administration to speak directly to the Taliban if it wants to extend foreign forces’ stay in the war-torn country beyond May.
Since taking charge in January, the new US administration, which is currently undertaking a review of the deal with the Taliban, has avoided talking to the Taliban. The policy is totally the opposite of the Trump administration, which had been engaged in direct talks with the Taliban.
Pakistan, which has facilitated and brokered the US-Taliban deal, has no objection to the Biden administration’s review of the accord but feels that not engaging with the Taliban is not the right approach.
“If the US can’t withdraw troops either because of logistic or any other reasons, they should directly speak to the Taliban,” a senior Pakistani official, who has the firsthand account of the peace efforts, said.
As part of the Doha deal, the US troops need to leave Afghanistan by May. However, the US as well as Nato have now indicated that they may not withdraw in summer. The US and Nato insist that troops’ withdrawal is condition-based. Both accused the Taliban of not honouring the commitment. Taliban have been accused of not taking steps to reduce violence as well as not cutting ties with the terrorist groups.
The insurgent group, however, rejected the allegation and insisted that they were fully committed to the peace accord. The Taliban, while backing their claims, said since the February 29, 2019 deal, not a single American was killed in Afghanistan.
The Taliban have warned the US and international forces of dire consequences if they extend their “occupation”.
After a break of several weeks, the crucial intra-Afghan talks resumed in Doha last week. But the success of the process depends on the US approach.
Officials here believe that the Biden administration has every right to review the deal but added that the ground situation suggests there is little the US can do other than sticking to the political process.
Pakistan is of the view that the US needs to talk directly to the Taliban to convey its concerns and its future strategy.
Former US ambassador to Islamabad Richard Olson recently said that the US and Pakistan were aligned on the issue of Afghanistan.
However, he added that the alignment was the result of the US embracing Pakistan’s stance on Afghanistan.
Pakistan has consistently advocated a political solution to end the war in Afghanistan. The US finally supported that approach during President Trump’s tenure, allowing direct negotiations between Washington and the Taliban. But the Trump administration appeared to be indecisive and so far only spoken to the Afghan government.
The lack of clarity on part of the Biden administration has further complicated the Afghan peace efforts.