Did Zalmay Khalilzad’s favorable views on Taliban and Pakistan spell the death knell for his peace mission? Did Khalilzad’s own boss – Mike Pompeo , a former CIA chief, stab him in the back and prompted Trump into publicly lying about his “scheduled” meeting with Taliban at Camp David, particularly in view of the militia’s claim that they had declined a meeting at Camp David because of negative history (Israel-PLO accord) attached to it? Altogether, is it safe to assume that the deep state in Washington has trumped President Trump by peddling the “fight them from a position of strength” as a pretext to prolong their stay in Afghanistan?
Let us recap what Khalilzad said in a prime time Tolo TV interview on September 2, immediately after sharing the major contours of the peace agreement with President Ashraf Ghani in Kabul.
In response to various critical questions on Taliban and Pakistan, Khalilzad, had the following to say:
#Taliban have changed, though some people may not like it. I used to think that they were simply armed militants being controlled by an external power. But after ten months of interaction with them I have come to the conclusion that was oversimplification and contrary to facts. They may have contacts with other countries but there are Taliban who are patriotic, who want an end to war, desire a peaceful and progressive Afghanistan with a government that is acceptable to all Afghans and enjoys respect and maintains good contacts with the international community.
# Pakistan has taken a few positive steps for promoting a durable peace in Afghanistan in its own interest. We have come to an important understanding that the soils of Afghanistan and Pakistan are not used for attacks against each other.
# I have been told that Pakistan has moved away from its policy of geopolitics to geo-economics and geo-development in order to deal with its internal issues, especially economic problems. They told me that they are seeking better economic ties with our neighbours to address issues related to their massive foreign debt burden. That is why Pakistan is eagerly supporting a peaceful settlement because it believes it will serve in its own economic interests. And hence they are eager to see lasting peace in Afghanistan.
These views apparently did not go down well with the lobbies that constantly oppose talks because Khalilzad’s views essentially demolished two myths.
Firstly, Khalilzad admitted that Taliban are a changed species and are as patriotic as other Afghanistan.
Secondly, Khalilzad rubbished the continuous insinuation against Pakistan and acknowledged it has taken positive steps to promote peace in Afghanistan.
These two points also contradict the decade old Kabul narrative that basically demonize both the Taliban and Pakistan.
President Ghani, most probably resonating these lobbies within Afghanistan, and in Washington, reiterated the same Monday evening in his address to the nation. At the same time he made any future talks with the Taliban conditional to cease-fire – something the militia have adamantly refused.
One possible reason is probably the heavy losses Taliban have suffered in the last few days. Mike Pompeo, the foreign secretary, for instance, confirmed to CNN Sunday (September 8) that “over a 1000 Taliban have been killed just in the last ten days alone…”.
This clearly indicates that the US-Afghan forces turned the heat on the militia while trying to extract a peace deal.
The exclusion of Qatar, the host, as well as Russia, China, Pakistan, and Iran from the grand finale i.e. the signing of the deal at Camp David, probably also served as the reason for Taliban’s refusal to meet with Trump at a place which is notorious for an unfair Egypt-Israel deal in 1978.
A big question facing us all is: is it a smoke-screen Trump has created before dropping a bombshell or has the US security establishment finally triumphed over the whimsical, matter-of-fact president who loves to fly solo, and probably seeking glory?
The writer is the Executive Director of CRSS and Editor of Matrix Mag.
This article first appeared in Matrix Mag and is being reproduced under a special arrangement. Click here to go to the original.