NEW DELHI: US Special Representative for Afghanistan Reconciliation, Zalmay Khalilzad, is on a two-day visit to New Delhi to brief the government on United States of America president Donald Trump’s plans to pull out American troops from the strife-torn country and efforts to bring the ultra-orthodox Sunni group Taliban to the negotiating table.
He is expected to hold talks with both Foreign Secretary Vijay Gokhale and National Security Adviser Ajit Doval, apart from other senior officials. New Delhi, believing that the Taliban is a proxy for Pakistan’s Inter Services Intelligence (ISI), has so far refused to hold any discussions with the Taliban.
This trip, his first since his appointment in September 2018, comes days after the Taliban in Afghanistan called off a fourth round of talks with the United States in Qatar, citing, among other things, differences in the agenda, including Afghan officials being a part of the talks and the question of a ceasefire and prisoner exchange in Afghanistan.
According to a US State Department release on Wednesday, “…Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad will lead an inter-agency delegation to India, China, Afghanistan, and Pakistan from January 8-21. He will meet with senior government officials in each country to facilitate an intra-Afghan political settlement.”
“The United States supports the desire of the Afghan people and the international community for a political settlement that ends the 40-year conflict and ensures Afghanistan never again serves as a platform for international terrorism. Special Representative Khalilzad will meet with Afghan government officials and other interested parties to support and facilitate an inclusive peace process in Afghanistan, empowering the Afghan people to chart a shared course for their nation’s future,” the statement added.
“There’s a massive contradiction here,” said a retired Indian official who has served in the region.
“The Taliban has not renounced any of its bigoted, violent and pathological ideology. By talking to them, the US is de-facto recognising them as a player in Afghanistan, while undermining the legitimate government there. If they are allowed to return to power in Afghanistan, all the US is doing is setting itself up for another 9/11 [September 11 terror attack],” he said.