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9.2.2019 US seek peace not withdrawal agreement in Afghanistan: Khalilzad
The US Special Representative for Afghan Reconciliation Ambassador Zalmay
Khalilzad has said the future presence of American troops in Afghanistan
would be conditions based as he ruled out a quick withdrawal of troops.

  “My overall goal is, at the direction of the president of the secretary
of state, not to seek out withdrawal agreement, but the peace agreement.
Because peace agreement can allow withdrawal. It is not just the
withdrawal agreement that we are seeking,” Khalilzad said in his address
to the US Institute of Peace.

Asserting that to achieve a peace agreement, a number of issues have to be
dealt with, he said initially they are focused on two issues: issue of
counter terrorism and the other the issue of withdrawal of US forces.

“After many conversations, we have reached an agreement in principle with
the Taliban on a framework that would provide guarantees, and enforcement
mechanism that no terrorist group, international terrorist group or
individuals would be able to use Afghanistan, the areas that they control
and should they be part of a future government; against the United States
as allies and others,” he said.

“We will engage with Taliban further to flush out these commitments that
they've made,” he said adding that the US and the Taliban have agreed “in
principle and a framework for possible US withdrawal as part of a package
deal”. US has a similar engagement with the Afghan government, he noted.

“Our hope is, our expectation is that once interact can dialogue begins,
which is our key objective, that these parallel discussions will be
brought together. Even if we achieve success on these two issues, we make
further progress, a peace agreement would not be, immediately or shortly
are achieved in the foreseeable future without a comprehensive agreement
on other issues,” he said.

“Nothing is agreed to until everything has been agreed to and the other
issues that must be dealt with are issues of a roadmap for Afghanistan
political future to end Afghan war,” he said adding that the Afghans must
sit across the table with each other and come to an agreement about their
future of their country.

“All sides tell me that I've talked to that they've learned lessons from
the past. That previous governments whether it was a Taliban government or
others that dominated Afghanistan and impose its a unique vision by force
on others have been a failure. So, the time has come, they say for an
inclusive dialogue leading to an inclusive piece,” he said.

Acknowledging that that would not be easy, said the United States has
offered to do what it can to be helpful if help is needed. “But it's for
the Afghans to decide and it’s for the Afghans to have the conversations,
to negotiate with each other. The US cannot be a substitute for decisions
that they must make,” he said.

“We will speak loudly and clearly for the values that we have, the values
of human rights, value of freedom, of the press, women's rights, all that
we stand for. We'll make sure that they understand that for having a
positive relationship in the future with the United States, those values
must be respected, those values must be responded to,” he said.

Asserting that Afghanistan today is very different than the Afghanistan of
19 years ago, Khalilzad said that it’s a different country and it will take
time for the Taliban perhaps to appreciate that. “But the message that they
have given me is that they understand that they cannot go back. We don't
trust the words of any of the protagonists as such anywhere, but we will
do what we can to facilitate it. We would be helpful and be watchful,”
said the top American diplomat.

Khalilzad said he would ideally have the peace deal before the upcoming
presidential elections in Afghanistan. He said there is reluctance on the
side of the Talib to sit down with the government to negotiate the future.
But he expressed hope that he will try help overcome that challenge.

Khalilzad the timing of a peace settlement from American point of view is
sooner the better. “It will be better for Afghanistan if we could get a
peace agreement before the election, which is scheduled in July. We would
prefer to see a peace agreement before July to bring the Taliban also into
the process so that the peace agreement would a facility that peaceful
election or a framework for proceeding with regards to the future of
Afghanistan,” he said.

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