US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, in a letter to President Ashraf Ghani, has put forth suggestions to the Afghan government to accelerate the peace process, including convening a UN-facilitated conference with international stakeholders, proposals to facilitate discussion between Afghan government and Taliban to form a negotiated settlement and ceasefire, a meeting in Turkey between both sides to finalize a peace agreement, and a revised proposal for a 90-day reduction in violence.
However, along with these proposals, Blinken made clear that the United States is considering all options regarding Afghanistan, including the May 1st deadline for full withdrawal.
Though the letter contains some ‘ifs and buts’ and the proposal has some elements that could undermine the peace prospects but the plan augurs well as focus remains on the peace process than on use of force, which could not produce the desired results in the past.
The United States, with the lead cooperation of Pakistan, was able to first strike an accord with Taliban and then the hard work of the two countries led to signing of a deal between the Afghan Government and Taliban.
Tangible moves have been made towards restoration of peace and the process must not be allowed to be derailed by vested interests.
With this in view, Washington has rightly urged Kabul to accelerate discussions on a negotiated settlement, warning that failure to do so could result in toppling Afghan government by Taliban.
This is, in a way, indirect acknowledgement of the power and influence that Taliban still wield in Afghanistan and such a realization on the part of major stakeholders could help brighten the prospects for a final political settlement.
The proposal to convene a meeting of the foreign ministers and envoys of major stakeholders under the auspices of the United Nations would be a step in the right direction but inclusion of India in the proposed meeting casts doubt on real intentions and designs as New Delhi has a vested interest in keeping the pot boiling in Afghanistan.
India is not immediate neighbour of Afghanistan and, on the other hand, Islamabad has provided documentary evidence of India sponsoring terrorism in Pakistan using Afghan soil.
We hope this point would be brought home to Zalmay Khalilzad when he visits Pakistan for consultations on the new push for peace.