Kabul : US Special Representative for Afghan Reconciliation Zalmay Khalilzad has said he returned to Afghanistan ‘disappointed’ that despite commitments to lower violence, it has not happened, referring to a recent surge in Taliban attacks as well as civilian and Afghan forces casualties in the country. The Defence Ministry on Tuesday said the Taliban staged attacks and other ‘violent activities’ in at least 22 provinces over the past 24 hours. “Too many Afghans are dying, Khalilzad said, reiterating that “the sides urgently need an agreement on a reduction of violence leading to a permanent and comprehensive ceasefire.”
Khalilzad reiterated that “the window to achieve a political settlement will not stay open forever,” adding that “intransigence and a refusal to abandon animosity, embrace fellow citizens, and agree on a formula for political cooperation/competition underpin the ongoing war.” Khalilzad said: “Afghans are dying at a high rate, and regional spoilers are using Afghans as cannon fodder for their illegitimate objectives.” He said that “Afghans need to pivot to development instead of destruction, stability instead of chaos, forgiveness instead of vengeance, compromise instead of inflexibility.”
Khalilzad departed for Oslo on Monday, said the US Department of State in a statement on Tuesday, adding that in Norway, he discussed international coordination and support of the Afghan peace process. In Doha, Khalilzad will meet with the negotiating teams to follow up on ongoing discussions to reduce violence and press both sides to immediately stem the recent increase in violence that Afghans across the country are being forced to bear. Along with international partners, Khalilzad will press the two negotiating teams to accelerate their efforts and agree to a political roadmap that ends Afghanistan’s 40-year-long war.
“The sides must move past procedure and into substantive negotiations. American and international assistance remains available to all sides,” it added. The UN mission to Afghanistan (UNAMA) report released on Tuesday said that overall, the civilian casualty figure for the first nine months of 2020 dropped by around 30 per cent compared to the same period in 2019, but while the number of civilian casualties is lowest in the first nine months of any year since 2012, “the harm done to civilians remains inordinate and shocking.”