Washington, 8 March 2021 (dpa/MIA) – US Secretary of State Antony Blinken has put forward suggestions to the Afghan government on accelerating the peace process, including by convening a UN-facilitated conference, according to Sunday media reports.
Blinken made the suggestions in a letter to President Ashraf Ghani seen by Afghanistan’s TOLOnews. The New York Times also reported on the letter, citing US and Afghan officials who confirmed its existence.
Blinken reportedly made proposals to facilitate discussion between the two sides to form a negotiated settlement and ceasefire and suggested a meeting in Turkey between both sides to finalize a peace agreement and a revised proposal for a 90-day reduction in violence.
According to both reports, Blinken wrote that the US had not decided whether to withdraw the remaining 2,500 American troops from Afghanistan by May 1, as outlined in its agreement with the Taliban.
He expressed concern that “the security situation will worsen and that the Taliban could make rapid territorial gains” following a US withdrawal.
Blinken requested Ghani’s “urgent leadership” in the letter, which the New York Times characterized as “unusually blunt.”
The State Department declined to comment on the letter but said in a statement to the New York Times that “all options remain on the table” regarding US troop withdrawal.
The US signed a peace deal with the Taliban militant group in February last year.
According to the agreement, all international forces would gradually leave Afghanistan by May 1, 2021. In return, the Taliban committed to renounce violence and enter into peace talks with the Afghan government.
The intra-Afghan talks started in mid-September, but there has been no tangible progress yet.