The US Special Envoy for peace in Afghanistan Zalmay Khalilzad said that he hopes for peace with the Taliban by April 2019, according to local media sources cited by Reuters.
Khalilzad is in Kabul to lead talks between the US, the Afghan government and the Taliban and he told reporters that he hopes “a peace deal is reached before April 20 next year”, when Afghanistan is planning to hold a presidential election.
The envoy led three days of talks in Doha, Qatar, where the Taliban has a political office. This came after months of attempts for a face-to-face dialogue between US officials and the Taliban.
On November 18th, Khalilzad said the end state of the talks would be “peace and a successful Afghanistan, one that doesn’t pose any threats to itself and to the international community.”
On the previous day, US Joint Chiefs Chairman General Joseph Dunford said:
“We used the term stalemate a year ago and relatively speaking it hasn’t changed much, but … we do believe that the Taliban know that at some point they have to reconcile.”
A big part of the reason behind the US move to take part in talks is that the apparently unwinnable 17-year-long war needs to come to an end and “American forces and advisers acknowledging it’s “time to cut and run”.”
Khalilzad also spoke of equal rights for men and women, and that it would be up to the Afghan government decide whether these rights will be part of Afghanistan’s “roadmap to the future.”
The Taliban spokesman was not available to comment, however Reuters cited two unnamed Taliban leaders, who claimed that the leaders of the group would present a new set of demands to Khalilzad.
In October the Taliban presented demands to Khalilzad that included a timeline for the withdrawal of U.S. troops and the release of senior Taliban from jails. In the same month, Pakistan released one of the co-founders of the Taliban and another high-ranking commander.
There has been no announcement for a date for additional talks, but the US special envoy said the Taliban “might bring additional changes to their team of negotiators.”
According to ZeroHedge:
“While six months is ambitious and a tad optimistic, it appears more about creating the conditions for a final politically face-saving American exit from the now approaching two decade long quagmire.”
In addition, the newly-appointed US general in charge of US and NATO operations, General Austin Scott Miller was cited by ABC as claiming that the Afghan war cannot be won militarily.
“This is not going to be won militarily,” he said. “This is going to a political solution.”
This also comes amid an increase in Taliban attacks on Afghan Security forces, ABC reported.
It is interesting if the talks actually lead to anything, since the Taliban clearly demand a complete withdrawal of US forces from the country. The US also apparently does not wish that, since it claims it is fighting ISIS. There are numerous reports of US strikes on Taliban units in the provinces where ISIS is gaining influence. According to Afghan sources, ISIS is being used by the Washington establishment as a tool to undermine the Taliban influence in some areas.
There are also continuous and somewhat regular reports of mysterious “US” helicopters that appear to be extracting ISIS militants from positions in Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria.
If and when further peace talks start it is likely that the war on ISIS, as well as “humanitarian and democratic” issues such as gender equality come back to the surface and serve as a justification for US forces to remain in the country.