News / Asia

    VOA EXCLUSIVE: Afghan Official Expects Peace Talks Soon

    Delegations from Afghanistan, Pakistan, The United States of America and China discuss a road map for ending the war with the Taliban at the Presidential Palace in Kabul, Afghanistan, Monday, Jan. 18, 2016.
    Delegations from Afghanistan, Pakistan, The United States of America and China discuss a road map for ending the war with the Taliban at the Presidential Palace in Kabul, Afghanistan, Monday, Jan. 18, 2016.
    Ayaz Gul

    A close aide to Afghan President Ashraf Ghani says he is “very positive” that direct peace talks with Taliban insurgents will take place before the end of this month with no conditions from either side.  Efforts are under way to determine the venue for the much-anticipated meeting.

    In an exclusive interview with VOA, Afghanistan’s newly appointed ambassador to Pakistan, Omar Zakhilwal, singled out for credit Islamabad’s "positive" cooperation for rekindling hopes for Afghan peace.

    Unlike his predecessors, Zakhilwal has arrived in Islamabad with the additional responsibility of having “full political authority” and backing of Afghan politicians "across the board" to win Islamabad’s consistent and crucial support for ending the 15-year-old Taliban insurgency in Afghanistan. 

    A four-nation cooperation group of senior Afghan, Pakistani, American and Chinese officials, at their latest meeting in Islamabad, agreed on a “road map” for peace and announced that direct talks between the warring Afghan sides were expected by the end of February.

    “I am very positive that we will,” Zakhilwal said when asked whether the Afghan government and the Taliban will both come to the negotiating table this month.

    He went on to say that all the countries involved are currently engaged in intense diplomatic efforts to determine a venue and have established contacts with the Taliban’s political office in Qatar for arranging the peace dialogue.

    “We are under no illusion that as soon as we sit with the Taliban, by the end of the day, we will have a settlement out of it. So it's going to be a prolonged process; I hope not so prolonged that people at the end will lose hope in it, but at least it certainly cannot happen in a meeting or two,” Zakhilwal asserted.

    Afghanistan’s newly appointed ambassador to Pakistan, Omar Zakhilwal. (W. Asad/VOA)
    Afghanistan’s newly appointed ambassador to Pakistan, Omar Zakhilwal. (W. Asad/VOA)

    Taliban yet to decide

    Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid told VOA that the group’s Qatar office is solely authorized to comment on whether they intend to join the negotiations.

    Mujahid denied media reports that said a top Taliban delegation from its Qatar office recently traveled to Pakistan as part of preparations for the upcoming meeting with Afghan peace negotiators.  

    Ambassador Zakhilwal said predominant public skepticism in Kabul about Pakistan’s assistance in the peace process continues to pose a challenge to President Ghani’s renewed outreach to Islamabad.

    Many Afghans have long accused the Pakistani military of giving secret support and sanctuary to the Taliban, enabling the group to sustain its insurgency.

    Zakhilwal emphasized the need for all sides to make all possible efforts to overcome “negative perceptions” on both sides, and noted Pakistan’s cooperative approach in the recent four-way talks on the Afghan peace effort.

    “There was nothing more that we could have asked for. There was no resistance from Pakistan and there is, so far, full commitment to implement that road map, and I have no doubt that the intentions are not there. But we must keep the environment such that it does not get spoiled, and if we do deliver on this road map I do believe that we will have some early indications that we are on the positive track.”

    But, like many Afghan and foreign observers, the ambassador fears a spike in Taliban-led violence in the coming weeks when rising temperatures allow insurgents easier movement through snow-covered high mountain passes.

    “When we do not see the violence diminishing in the process, then the public will not believe in the process they will say ‘look the Taliban are using this just as a delaying tactic or playing [a game with us]’. So, that’s why what we have in the roadmap as an indicator of the success of the negotiation in this process and as an indicator to the public that they should be supporting it, diminishing violence.”

    Former Afghan Taliban fighters carry their weapons before handing them over as part of a government peace and reconciliation process at a ceremony in Jalalabad, Jan. 12, 2016.
    Former Afghan Taliban fighters carry their weapons before handing them over as part of a government peace and reconciliation process at a ceremony in Jalalabad, Jan. 12, 2016.

    Islamabad's influence

    Pakistani officials insist they have “limited” influence with the Taliban to try to persuade them to engage in talks, and dismiss suggestions they completely control them or can influence their battlefield activities inside Afghanistan.

    Zakhilwal dismisses widespread criticism that there are disagreements between President Ghani and Chief Executive Abdullah Abdullah over engaging the Taliban in peace talks.

    Without going into details, the Afghan ambassador said the national unity government is ready for “give and take” and to accommodate the Taliban in the political and power structure when negotiations begin.  He reiterated neither side should insist on pre-conditions.

    Zakhilwal also criticized the latest U.S. intelligence assessments that Afghanistan is “at risk of political breakdown” during 2016 because of political disagreements, economic deterioration and worsening national security.

    “They have been proven wrong before and they will be proven wrong again… there is enough maturity within the politicians of Afghanistan to understand the risks of following any other path other than the path of positive engagements and supporting and being behind the government at a time when the time is extremely challenging.”

    You May Like

    US Leaders Who Served in Vietnam War Look Back and Ahead

    In New York Times opinion piece, Secretary of State John Kerry, Senator John McCain and former Senator Bob Kerrey say as US strengthens relations with Vietnam, it is important to remember lessons learned from war

    Who Are US Allies in Fight Against Islamic State?

    There is little but opportunism keeping coalition together analysts warn — SDFs Arab militias are not united even among themselves, frequently squabble and don’t share Kurds' vision for post-Assad Syria

    Learning Foreign Language Helps US Soldiers Bridge Culture Gap

    Effective interaction with local populations part of everyday curriculum at Monterey, California, Defense Language Institute

    This forum has been closed.
    Comment Sorting
    Comments
         
    by: meanbill from: USA
    February 15, 2016 8:48 AM
    Peace is always just around the corner, [but], does anybody remember when the US was ever part of any peace settlement (that brought peace) in any conflict or war torn country anywhere since WW2, [so], is it possible the Afghans and the terrorists will find peace with the US sitting at the peace table? .. Did you say zero to none?

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Vietnamese-American Youth Optimistic About Obama's Visit to Vietnami
    X
    Elizabeth Lee
    May 22, 2016 6:04 AM
    U.S. President Barack Obama's visit to Vietnam later this month comes at a time when Vietnam is seeking stronger ties with the United States. Many Vietnamese Americans, especially the younger generation, are optimistic Obama’s trip will help further reconciliation between the two former foes. Elizabeth Lee has more from the community called "Little Saigon" located south of Los Angeles.
    Video

    Video Vietnamese-American Youth Optimistic About Obama's Visit to Vietnam

    U.S. President Barack Obama's visit to Vietnam later this month comes at a time when Vietnam is seeking stronger ties with the United States. Many Vietnamese Americans, especially the younger generation, are optimistic Obama’s trip will help further reconciliation between the two former foes. Elizabeth Lee has more from the community called "Little Saigon" located south of Los Angeles.
    Video

    Video First-generation, Afghan-American Student Sets Sights on Basketball Glory

    Their parents are immigrants to the United States. They are kids who live between two worlds -- their parents' homeland and the U.S. For many of them, they feel most "American" at school. It can be tricky balancing both worlds. In this report, produced by Beth Mendelson, Arash Arabasadi tells us about one Afghan-American student who seems to be coping -- one shot at a time.
    Video

    Video Newest US Citizens, Writing the Next Great Chapter

    While universities across the United States honor their newest graduates this Friday, many immigrants in downtown Manhattan are celebrating, too. One hundred of them, representing 31 countries across four continents, graduated as U.S. citizens, joining the ranks of 680,000 others every year in New York and cities around the country.
    Video

    Video Vietnam Sees Strong Economic Growth Despite Incomplete Reforms

    Vietnam has transformed its communist economy to become one of the world's fastest-growing nations. While the reforms are incomplete, multinational corporations see a profitable future in Vietnam and have made major investments -- as VOA's Jim Randle reports.
    Video

    Video Qatar Denies World Cup Corruption

    The head of Qatar’s organizing committee for the 2022 World Cup insists his country's bid to host the soccer tournament was completely clean, despite the corruption scandals that have rocked the sport’s governing body, FIFA. Hassan Al-Thawadi also said new laws would offer protection to migrants working on World Cup construction projects. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
    Video

    Video Infrastructure Funding Puts Cambodia on Front Line of International Politics

    When leaders of the world’s seven most developed economies meet in Japan next week, demands for infrastructure investment world wide will be high on the agenda. Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s push for “quality infrastructure investment” throughout Asia has been widely viewed as a counter to the rise of Chinese investment flooding into region.
    Video

    Video Democrats Fear Party Unity a Casualty in Clinton-Sanders Battle

    Democratic presidential front-runner Hillary Clinton claimed a narrow victory in Tuesday's Kentucky primary even as rival Bernie Sanders won in Oregon. Tensions between the two campaigns are rising, prompting fears that the party will have a difficult time unifying to face the presumptive Republican nominee, Donald Trump. VOA national correspondent Jim Malone has more from Washington.
    Video

    Video Portrait of a Transgender Marriage: Husband and Wife Navigate New Roles

    As controversy continues in North Carolina over the use of public bathrooms by transgender individuals, personal struggles with gender identity that were once secret are now coming to light. VOA’s Tina Trinh explored the ramifications for one couple as part of trans.formation, a series of stories on transgender issues.
    Video

    Video Amerikan Hero Flips Stereotype of Middle Eastern Character

    An Iranian American comedian is hoping to connect with American audiences through a film that inverts some of Hollywood's stereotypes about Middle Eastern characters. Sama Dizayee reports.
    Video

    Video Budding Young Inventors Tackle City's Problems with 3-D Printing

    Every city has problems, and local officials and politicians are often frustrated by their inability to solve them. But surprising solutions can come from unexpected places. Students in Baltimore. Maryland, took up the challenge to solve problems they identified in their city, and came up with projects and products to make a difference. VOA's June Soh has more on a digital fabrication competition primarily focused on 3-D design and printing. Carol Pearson narrates.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora