When asked about this in an interview with America’s PBS News Hour on Friday night, Khalilzad said: “I think you’re right that the Talibs will not accept a cease-fire, comprehensive and permanent, until there’s a political settlement,” adding however that this was not unprecedented in other conflicts in the past.
In going forward and discussing a road map for peace, which might take into account an interim government, Khalilzad said there were various options the Afghan negotiating team and the Taliban have in front of them.
“But it is for the Afghans to agree to a political road map. And the fact that they are sitting across the table from each other is unprecedented, that warring – Afghan warring parties have sat together.
“When the Soviets withdrew, before their withdrawal, there was no Afghan meetings. It was an agreement that Pakistan and the Afghan government signed with the US and USSR as guarantors. And ever since then, the warring Afghan parties have not sat together.”
“This is an extraordinary development in contemporary Afghan history,” he said.
Over the past few weeks, critics have raised their voices claiming the US was pushing Afghanistan and the Taliban together to sign a deal before the US elections in November.
Questioned about whether he was under pressure by the White House or the US State Department to ensure progress was made by November 3, Khalilzad said he was not.
“We would like the war to end as soon as possible. This is the expectation of the Afghan people. We have not set any artificial deadline for when these negotiations have to succeed. We are not directly involved in the negotiations. It’s Afghan-Afghan. They did not want a foreigner to be a mediator or a facilitator, to be in the room,” he said.
Khalilzad said the Taliban had stated in Doha that the rights of minorities, such as the Shia community, would be respected and that there would be no discrimination.
“But that’s still an unresolved issue in terms of an exact formulation and an agreement. We obviously support an agreement that respects the right of all Afghans, whether they belong to one sect or another, whether they’re men or women.”
On the issue of al-Qaeda, in terms of the February deal signed between the US and the Taliban, which had not yet cut ties with the terrorist organization, Khalilzad said Washington was holding the Taliban to that agreement.
“And what we do is contingent, in terms of reduction of forces, on what they do. We have seen progress in terms of delivering on the commitment that they have made on terrorism, but that’s unfinished business.
“And we will see in a couple of months, when we reached a number between 4,000 to 5,000 in terms of our troops. We will assess where they are.”
He said the US was very committed to ensuring Afghanistan could not be used as a platform to threaten the US and that Washington would “take measures necessary to protect the United States from potential terrorist threats in Afghanistan or from Afghanistan.”