The commander of US Central Command, Gen. Kenneth McKenzie, has said that fighting in Afghanistan will intensify sharply and Taliban militants could threaten major cities unless a Biden administration diplomatic push to end the 20-year conflict yields results in the next two months.
Quoted by Los Angeles Times, the US general said: “If we withdraw and no deal was made with the Taliban, I think the government of Afghanistan is going to be in for a very stiff fight to retain possession of towns and cities.”
McKenzie met with President Ashraf Ghani in Kabul on Saturday and both discussed the security situation, the Afghan peace process and the US’s support to ANDSF, the Presidential Palace said.
Gen. Miller who met last week with Taliban officials in Qatar, has urged them to reduce attacks on Afghan troops in hopes of improving the climate for peace talks, according to the report.
This comes as Afghan leaders are reviewing a US-proposed draft for Afghanistan’s peace that has suggested an international conference and an interim government as part of efforts to move the reconciliation process forward.
Afghan leaders, who met under the leadership committee of the High Council for National Reconciliation on Sunday, agreed that the Afghan republic should thoroughly review the proposed draft for peace and then share it with the United States.
The guiding principles for Afghanistan’s future, the structure of a transitional government, and a political roadmap for a lasting ceasefire are the three significant elements of the draft.
The draft states that when the term of a proposed transitional government ends, the future leader of Afghanistan will be elected through a popular vote.
The reconciliation council official said the current opportunity for peace should not be wasted and there is a possibility that some amendments will be proposed by the council members.
Meanwhile, the Taliban negotiators led by the group’s deputy leader Abdul Ghani Baradar met with Qatar Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al-Thani as well as US special envoy Zalmay Khalilzad in Doha on Monday evening.
A Taliban spokesman in Doha, Mohammad Naeem, said “the implementation of the Doha agreement, the current situation in Afghanistan and the ongoing process of the Intra-Afghan negotiations were discussed” in the meeting.
This comes as The New York Times, quoting to US, European and Afghan officials, reports that the United States has about 1,000 more troops in Afghanistan than it has disclosed.
The report says that it adds another layer of complexity to the swirling debate at the White House over whether to stick with a deal, struck by the Trump administration and the Taliban, that calls for removing the remaining American forces by May 1.
Afghan political leaders are expected to attend a meeting on Afghanistan’s peace in Moscow by the end of this week. The Afghan government has said that it will send its delegation to the event.