Afghanistan’s top peace negotiator says the often fragmented Afghan political leadership must either unify in its peace talks with the Taliban or risk withdrawing US and NATO troops, resulting in more fierce fighting.
KABUL, Afghanistan – Afghanistan’s top peace negotiator said on Saturday that the often fragmented Afghan political leadership must either unify in its peace talks with the Taliban or risk withdrawing US and NATO troops, resulting in more fierce fighting.
Abdullah Abdullah, head of Afghanistan’s National Reconciliation Council, said that now is the time for Afghanistan’s political leaders to remain united in the negotiations. But some of them are former warlords with ferocious reputations, heavily armed militias and deeply held grudges.
In an interview with the Associated Press in the Afghan capital, Abdullah warned that history and millions of Afghans – already frustrated with what they consider government ineptitude and rampant corruption – will judge them severely if the unit eludes powerful leaders now in Kabul. In the early 1990s, fierce fighting between many of the same leaders killed thousands of civilians in the capital and gave rise to the Taliban, who took power in 1996.
Abdullah said the withdrawal that officially began on Saturday from the remaining 2,500 to 3,500 US troops and about 7,000 NATO allied forces will pose “enormous challenges”.
“I would not say that it is the end of the world for our people. I would say it will be very challenging and so I am of the opinion that the whole focus has to be on achieving peace, which does not just lead us, it takes the other side “, he said.
Still, Abdullah said he is not convinced that the Taliban want peace. He said the National Reconciliation Council, of which he is the president, has made numerous calls for the Taliban to put all its demands on the table.
Messages come and go between a variety of Taliban to senior negotiators, including himself, said Abdullah. He noted that he had received numerous messages from Taliban officials, some in writing, others as voice messages. Sometimes they are detailed and other times concise and brief. But he said he has yet to see a peace commitment on the part of the insurgent group he can trust.
Abdullah said his response to the Taliban has been consistent: “Put whatever you want on the negotiating table. We are ready to discuss this. We are ready to find ways to work both ways. “
He said the withdrawal increases pressure on both sides to reach a peace agreement.
The Taliban cannot win militarily, he said, and even regional powers – including Pakistan, with its influence over the insurgent group – have firmly rejected a military takeover in Afghanistan. Taliban leaders are based in cities in Pakistan.
An “inclusive and peaceful agreement, that’s what everyone believes. … God forbid, if we don’t have peace, then, of course, no one has forgotten the country’s recent history. Therefore, everything must be done to mitigate the serious consequences withdrawal. ”
Meanwhile, Abdullah questioned Washington’s guarantees from the Taliban to reject terrorist groups, particularly Al Qaeda, which is why Washington and NATO invaded 20 years ago. Links between the Taliban and Al Qaeda have continued to emerge and Al Qaeda publications and websites promise loyalty to the Taliban leadership.
“What happened to Al Qaeda?” He asked. “That is a big question.”