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US to ask Turkey to host Taliban, Afghan gov’t meeting

March 8, 2021 at 1:04 pm

Members of the Taliban political bureau [Getty]

The United States is to ask the Turkish government to host a senior-level meeting between the Afghan government and the Taliban in order to proceed with the next step in the ongoing peace process, the Biden administration’s Secretary of State proposed yesterday.

In a letter written by Anthony Blinken to Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, revealed by the Afghan media outlet TOLOnews, the Secretary of State outlined the US’ general strategy for the peace process between Kabul and the Taliban.

Despite Washington having “not yet completed our review of the way ahead, we have reached an initial conclusion that the best way to advance our shared interests is to do all we can to accelerate peace talks and to bring all parties into compliance with their commitments,” the letter read.

A key part of that strategy, Blinken stated, was for the US to call the United Nations (UN) to convene a gathering of the foreign ministers from Afghanistan’s neighbouring countries in the region and other interested states, including Pakistan, Iran, India, Russia, China, as well as the US. Those foreign ministers would subsequently “discuss a unified approach to supporting peace in Afghanistan.”

Another key part of the strategy is Blinken’s announcement that the US “will ask the government of Turkey to host a senior-level meeting of both sides in the coming weeks to finalise a peace agreement.” Blinken also extended the invitation to President Ghani, saying that “I urge you or your authoritative designees to join other representatives of the Islamic Republic in the meeting.”

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In the letter, Blinken also stated that the US has not ruled out any option regarding Afghanistan, even saying that “We are considering the full withdrawal of our forces by May 1, as we consider other options.”

Those options also fit into a 90-day reduction in violence that the Secretary of State also alluded to, which the US hopes would “prevent a spring offensive by the Taliban” and “to coincide with diplomatic efforts to support a political settlement between the two parties.”

Turkish forces were part of the US-led international coalition that invaded Afghanistan in 2001 and toppled the Taliban government, following the attacks on New York’s World Trade Centre on 11 September that year. Since then, the US-led coalition’s military forces have had a presence within Afghanistan in their continued fight against the Taliban which has persisted till this day.

Then in February last year, peace talks resulted in an agreement between the Taliban and the Afghan government in the Qatari capital Doha, which Turkey declared its support for. In November, the senior Afghan politician and head of the High Council for National Reconciliation Abdullah Abdullah visited the Turkish capital Ankara and met with President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

Turkey’s role and potential as a host for the Afghan peace process were expected by many, as it is reportedly viewed as a neutral force by opposing factions in Afghanistan’s political situation. That sentiment was repeated earlier this month when Afghan Foreign Minister Mohammad Haneef Atmar stated in a meeting: “Turkey can play a key role in building and promoting a regional consensus for peace in Afghanistan.”

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