(Karachi) US Special Representative for Afghanistan Reconciliation Zalmay Khalilzad has said Pakistan understands that it will also face grave consequences in case of a civil war in Afghanistan.
Speaking to the US Senate Foreign Relations Committee at the panel’s first public hearing on the administration’s Afghanistan policy, Khalilzad said: “Peace is still possible in Afghanistan as the US has started withdrawing remaining troops from the country.”
The envoy maintained, “Pakistan’s leaders have emphasized publicly and to US officials that they do not support a military takeover by the Taliban. I believe they understand that not only Afghanistan, but their country too will face grave consequences in the event of a return to a wider civil war.”
He stated that keeping US forces in Afghanistan did not make sense as the conflict could not be solved by continued fighting. “The US is helping the Kabul government find contractors to replace the departing American ones.”
“The Afghans … with our help are looking for others to be able to provide that service to them,” Khalilzad told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. “We’re obviously very sympathetic to them to find alternatives.”
Earlier, United States President Joe Biden said that withdrawal of US troops from Afghanistan by the May 1 deadline would be ‘hard to meet’. The president cited “tactical reasons” for the delay, but clarified it is not the US government’s intention to keep the troops for a long time in the war-torn country.
He said that US soldiers must leave Afghanistan in a safe and orderly manner. “If we leave, we’re going to do so in a safe and orderly way,” he stated.
In February 2020, a deal was struck between the United States and the Taliban in which it was agreed that Taliban prisoners will be released from Afghan prisons before peace talks between the militant group and the government.
On August 10, Afghanistan’s President Ashraf Ghani issued a decree to release the final batch of prisoners demanded by the Taliban as a condition to move to peace talks.
Later, the Afghan government released the Taliban inmates, kicking of intra-Afghan peace talks. The two sides continued their discussions for months but are only able to agree on procedural rules of the negotiations during this period.