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

    Video Democrats Clinton, Kaine Offer 'Very Different Vision' Than Trump

    In a jab at Trump, Clinton says her team wants to 'build bridges, not walls'; Obama Hails Kaine's record; Trump calls Kaine a 'job-killer'

    Turkey Wants Pakistan to Close Down institutions, Businesses Linked to Gulen

    Thousands of Pakistani students are enrolled in Gulen's commercial network of around two dozen institutions operating in Pakistan for over two decades

    AU Passport A Work in Progress

    Who will get the passport and what the benefits are still need to be worked out

    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.
    In State of Emergency, Turkey’s Erdogan Focuses on Spiritual Movementi
    X
    July 22, 2016 11:49 AM
    The state of emergency that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has declared is giving him even more power to expand a purge that has seen an estimated 60,000 people either arrested or suspended from their jobs. VOA Europe correspondent Luis Ramirez reports from Istanbul.
    Video

    Video In State of Emergency, Turkey’s Erdogan Focuses on Spiritual Movement

    The state of emergency that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has declared is giving him even more power to expand a purge that has seen an estimated 60,000 people either arrested or suspended from their jobs. VOA Europe correspondent Luis Ramirez reports from Istanbul.
    Video

    Video Scientists in Poland Race to Save Honeybees

    Honeybees are in danger worldwide. Causes of what's known as colony collapse disorder range from pesticides and loss of habitat to infections. But scientists in Poland say they are on track to finding a cure for one of the diseases. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Wall Already Runs Along Parts of US-Mexico Border

    The Republican Party’s presidential nominee, Donald Trump, gained the support of many voters by saying he would build a wall to keep undocumented immigrants and drugs from coming across the border from Mexico. Critics have called his idea impractical and offensive to Mexico, while supporters say such a bold approach is needed to control the border. VOA’s Greg Flakus has more from the border town of Nogales, Arizona.
    Video

    Video New HIV Tests Emphasize Rapid Results

    As the global fight against AIDS intensifies, activists have placed increasing importance on getting people to know their HIV status. Some companies are developing new HIV testing methods designed to be quick, easy and accurate. Thuso Khumalo looks at the latest methods, presented at the International AIDS conference in Durban, South Africa.
    Video

    Video African Youth with HIV Urge More Support

    HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, is the top killer of teens in sub-Saharan Africa. But many youths say their experience with the virus is unique and needs to be addressed differently than the adult epidemic. VOA South African Correspondent Anita Powell reports.
    Video

    Video Poor Residents in Cleveland Not Feeling High Hopes of Republican Convention

    With the Republican Party's National Convention underway in Cleveland, Ohio, delegates and visitors are gathered in the host city's downtown - waiting to hear from the party's presidential candidate, Donald Trump. But a few kilometers from the convention's venue, Cleveland's poorest residents are not convinced Trump or his policies will make a difference in their lives. VOA's Ramon Taylor spoke with some of these residents as well as some of the Republican delegates and filed this report.
    Video

    Video Pop-Up Art Comes to Your Living Room, Backyard and Elsewhere

    Around the world, independent artists and musicians wrestle with a common problem: where to exhibit or perform? Traditional spaces such as museums and galleries are reserved for bigger names, and renting a space is not feasible for many. Enter ArtsUp, which connects artists with venue owners. Whether it’s a living room, restaurant, office or even a boat, pop-up events are bringing music and art to unexpected places. Tina Trinh has more.
    Video

    Video With Yosemite as Backdrop, Obama Praises National Parks

    Last month, President Barack Obama and his family visited some of the most beautiful national parks in the U.S. Using the majestic backdrop of a towering waterfall in California's Yosemite National Park, Obama praised the national park system which celebrates its 100th anniversary this year. He talked about the importance of America’s “national treasures” and the need to protect them from climate change and other threats. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
    Video

    Video Counter-Islamic State Coalition Plots Next Steps

    As momentum shifts against Islamic State in Iraq, discussions are taking place about the next steps for driving the terrorist group from its final strongholds. Secretary of State John Kerry is hosting a counter-IS meeting at the State Department, a day after defense ministers from more than 30 countries reviewed and agreed upon a course of action. VOA Pentagon correspondent Carla Babb reports.
    Video

    Video Russia's Participation at Brazil Olympic Games Still In Question

    The International Olympic Committee has delayed a decision on whether to ban all Russian teams from competing in next month's Olympic Games in Brazil over allegations of an elaborate doping scheme. The World Anti-Doping Agency recently released an independent report alleging widespread doping by Russian athletes at the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi. So far, only Russian track and field athletes have been barred from the Summer Games in Brazil. VOA's Zlatica Hoke has more.
    Video

    Video Scotland’s Booming Whisky Industry Fears Brexit Hangover

    After Britain’s vote to leave the European Union, Scotland’s government wants to break away from the United Kingdom – fearing the nation’s exports are at risk. Among the biggest of these is whisky. Henry Ridgwell reports on a time of turmoil for those involved in the ancient art of distilling Scotland’s most famous product.
    Video

    Video Millennials Could Determine Who Wins Race to White House

    With only four months to go until Americans elect a new president, one group of voters is getting a lot more attention these days: those ages 18 to 35, a generation known as millennials. It’s a demographic that some analysts say could have the power to decide the 2016 election. But a lot depends on whether they actually turn out to vote. VOA’s Alexa Lamanna reports.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora