The US administration believes that talks between the Afghanistan government and the Taliban can resume once the dispute over Mullah Omar’s successor is resolved.
Jarrett Blanc, the acting special representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan (SRAP), claimed on Tuesday that resumption of the reconciliation process depends on the Taliban.
He also claimed that all the stakeholders, including the Afghan government, believe that a political settlement is still possible in the war-torn country.
“We had high hopes after the first round of talks in Murree,” Blanc told journalists at the US embassy.
“That process can be resumed as soon as the Taliban sort out their leadership issue.”
The Obama administration’s point man for the region, who assumed charge as the acting SRAP after Daniel F Feldman relinquished office a few weeks ago, had held a meeting with the Afghan leadership in Kabul before visiting Islamabad.
Within days of the conclusion of the first round of talks in Murree this July, the emerging dialogue between the Taliban and the Ashraf Ghani-led Afghanistan administration was put on hold after the death of the Taliban’s supreme commander, Mullah Mohammed Omar, was confirmed. Internal rifts within the Taliban ranks over Omar’s successor have thrown the fledgling Afghan peace process into disarray.
In this backdrop, the visit of the acting SRAP is seen as an attempt to boost the efforts for engaging the stakeholders and persuading them to resume dialogue.
Blanc doesn’t see any other impediment to resumption of talks except willingness and successor issues on the part of the Taliban.
In his interaction with the Afghan authorities, the US envoy found them willing to re-engage the Taliban for talks once they sort out their internal issues. “I don’t think there is any other irritant.”
The point man said the US and all the regional powers, including China and Russia, had agreed to support the Afghan-led peace process. “There is broad-based consensus on the Afghan-led peace process. It’s not in the interest of any of us to be competing with one another in Afghanistan.”
Though he was optimistic that the Taliban would return to the negotiating table, he could not give any time frame. “I have every hope that the Taliban will come back to talks. Let’s see how things unfold in the next weeks and months.”
He reiterated that the Taliban need to make a decision. “What they’re doing right now is killing their fellow Afghans. They’re not killing Americans. Most of our troops have left already.”
Blanc avoided answering queries regarding his government’s satisfaction over the Pakistan Army’s ongoing operation against militant outfits, especially the dismantling of the Haqqani network.
He, however, said Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif had publicly stated that Pakistan will not discriminate while dealing with terrorists.
Asked about India’s potential role in Afghanistan, the US envoy said that India being the largest and fastest growing regional economy can play a positive role in the peace process.
Published in The Express Tribune, September 16th, 2015.