Saturday July 13, 2024

Was Khalilzad kept in the dark by Trump?

By Rahimullah Yusufzai
September 09, 2019

PESHAWAR: It seems even Zalmay Khalilzad, the chief US negotiator holding peace talks with the Taliban in Qatar since September 2018, wasn’t aware that President Donald Trump was planning to call-off the peace negotiations. According to well-informed sources, Khalilzad had left Doha, Qatar for Vienna, Austria after concluding peace talks with the Taliban deputy leader Mullah Abdul Ghani Biradar. He got the news about Trump’s tweets calling off the peace talks in Vienna. He was en route to Brussels, the capital of Belgium, where he was scheduled to brief the defence ministers and other officials of the Nato member countries about the draft peace agreement finalized with Taliban after months of painstaking negotiations.

The sources said the Nato secretary general was expected to make a statement supporting the peace agreement after the briefing by Khalilzad, who had been keeping the Nato authorities updated about the peace process during his regular visits to Brussels.

The Afghan-born Khalilzad, who has served in the past as the US ambassador for Afghanistan, Iraq and the UN, was reportedly caught by surprise. He is said to have changed his travel plans and headed for Washington to find out more about the reasons for Trump’s unexpected decision. His point of call would as usual be the State Department and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, his immediate boss.

Khalilzad was appointed as the US special envoy for Afghanistan Reconciliation in September last year to negotiate with the Taliban for achieving peace in Afghanistan. Earlier, senior State Department official Alice Wells had opened negotiations with the Qatar-based Taliban Political Commission in July 2018.

Khalilzad had throughout the peace talks presented an upbeat and optimistic view of the process despite the fact that the negotiations were difficult and tiring. He kept the world informed through his tweets as he travelled between Washington and Doha and made frequent trips to Kabul, Islamabad and other world capitals to consult the important stakeholders about the peace process.

It isn’t clear whether Khalilzad would resign from his position or would be asked to stay until the situation became clear. If he stays in his position, it would be an indication that the peace talks with the Taliban could be revived in future.