Zalmay Khalilzad, the former US Special Representative for Afghanistan Reconciliation, has said that a plan was in place for an inclusive government in the war-torn nation before it fell to the Taliban on August 15, the media reported.
In an exclusive interview to TOLO News, the Afghan-origin diplomat said that few days before Kabul’s collapse, he was in Doha where he held talks with Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, the incumbent Deputy Prime Minister of the Taliban government, and they agreed to hold talks with Afghan politicians and a delegation from the administration of former President Ashraf Ghani on forming an inclusive interim government.
He further claimed that the Taliban had agreed to not enter Kabul until an inclusive government was formed.
“It was agreed that the Taliban forces would not enter Kabul and a number of their forces who were in the city would leave the capital. In the meantime, a delegation from the government was set to visit Doha and to form an agreement with the Taliban on an inclusive government within two weeks,” Khalilzad, who stepped down from his position as the Special Representative in October, told TOLO News.
According to the former Special Representative, it was decided that any decision the delegation would make in Doha about an inclusive government would be final and Ghani had accepted this.
The scheduled talks, however, did not take place as Ghani fled Kabul on August 15, which paved the way for the Taliban to move into the capital city.
Khalilzad, however, said both the former Afghan government and the Taliban are responsible for the failure of the intra-Afghan talks intended to bring peace to the country.
According to the diplomat, the 2020 Doha agreement provided a golden opportunity for peace, but the conflicting parties failed to use the opportunity.
“Although the Doha deal and the joint declaration in Kabul on the same day provided a golden opportunity, unfortunately the warring parties did not use it. In my view, both sides are responsible for the failure,” he added.
“For me, Afghanistan leaders, including Taliban and non-Taliban, are more responsible because they did not accept a middle way.”
Khalilzad said US President Joe Biden was disappointed by the Afghans’ disagreement and that he preferred a time-based withdrawal instead of a condition-based one.
“It was feared that if we condition the withdrawal on the intra-Afghan agreement, it was possible that the Afghans would never reach an agreement.”
According to Khalilzad, during the peace talks the US had discussed a power-sharing government with the Taliban, but Ghani’s administration was reluctant to form such a government.
“We were talking with the Taliban about a power-sharing government. I made a proposal and soon Kabul released the proposal. Releasing a secret agreement (proposal) that had been given to the government and the Taliban itself meant that the (the government) wanted to damage it,” he told TOLO News.
Khalilzad said amid the increase in fighting in the months prior to August, the US pressured the Taliban and they agreed to not attack cities and highways, adding that the government in Kabul was insisting on an immediate ceasefire.