Peace Process Update: Oct 29
Updated: Dec 20, 2020
Khalilzad voices frustration at lack of progress, escalation in violence; Parliament Speaker Rahmani leads historic delegation to Pakistan; NATO reaffirms financial commitment to the Afghan military
Amid rising violence, U.S. special envoy to Afghanistan Zalmay Khalilzad took to Twitter on October 15th, saying he had reached an agreement with the Taliban insurgents to ‘re-set’ their commitments under the U.S.-Taliban peace deal. Khalilzad said that too many Afghans are dying at present, but the U.S. expects the violence to decrease considerably with the re-set. By October 27th Khalilzad took to Twitter again saying he is “disappointed that despite commitments to lower violence, it has not happened. The window to achieve a political settlement will not stay open forever.” Kahlilzad continued, “Afghans need to pivot to development instead of destruction, stability instead of chaos, forgiveness instead of vengeance, compromise instead of inflexibility.”
Khalilzad’s frustration stems from the Taliban insurgents continuing to violate the terms of its deal with the U.S.; on a daily basis they launched deadly attacks across the country, killing dozens of civilians and military personnel. On Oct. 21st, a NATO military convoy in Kandahar province struck an IED injuring two Romanian soldiers. NATO’s Resolute Support mission said that the forces were conducting a ground defense area patrol in the immediate area surrounding their base when the blast happened. After a ten-day assault in Helmand province, the Taliban insurgents eventually agreed to end their offensive on the condition that the U.S. military also end its airstrikes against them. On October 23rd a suicide car bomber killed at least thirteen civilians and injured nearly one hundred and twenty others in the western Ghor province. In a horrific scene of violence in Kabul on October 24th, a suicide bomber struck a tutoring center, Kawsar-e Danish, in a predominantly Shia neighborhood. Twenty four people died, and fifty seven were wounded, with many of the victims being teenage students. The Taliban denied involvement in the bombing and ISIS took responsibility, though provided no evidence that they perpetrated the attack.
U.S. officials and Afghan leaders’ appeals for reducing violence have fallen on deaf ears as the intra-Afghan talks in Doha’s have deadlocked. POTUS’s recent Twitter announcement to withdraw all troops by Christmas has clearly emboldened an ever aggressive Taliban insurgency. On October 16th U.S. National Security Advisor Robert O’Brien attempted to clarify competing statements about troop levels and withdrawal timelines made by him, POTUS and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs General Milley. But, O’Brien further confused the matter by stating the President’s tweet was more likely a wish than a reality though General Milley’s comments were wrong, and the Pentagon is in fact executing a White House order to reduce the troop count to 4,500 this fall, and then to around 2,500 by early 2021.
On October 20th in a meeting of the Afghan National Army Trust Fund Board at NATO headquarters in Brussels, NATO allies reaffirmed their financial commitment to the Afghan National Security Forces through 2024.
On October 23rd Speaker of the Afghan Parliament Mir Rahman Rahmani led a parliamentary delegation to Pakistan, marking a new era in Afghanistan-Pakistan relations. Speaker Rahmani and the MPs met with Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan, Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi, the Speaker of the National Assembly, Chairman of the Senate, and other high-ranking officials to discuss Pakistan’s role in the Afghan peace process, streamlining the visa process for Afghans working in Pakistan, strengthening inter-parliamentary ties, and boosting trade and economic cooperation between the two countries. The visit coincided with a Trade and Investment Forum attended by leading members of the Afghan and Pakistani business community.