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Taliban Demanding 'Lion's Share of Power,' US Special Rep for Afghan Reconciliation Says

© REUTERS / DANISH SIDDIQUIA convoy of Afghan Special Forces is seen during the rescue mission of a police officer besieged at a check post surrounded by Taliban, in Kandahar province, Afghanistan, July 13, 2021. REUTERS/Danish Siddiqui
A convoy of Afghan Special Forces is seen during the rescue mission of a police officer besieged at a check post surrounded by Taliban, in Kandahar province, Afghanistan, July 13, 2021. REUTERS/Danish Siddiqui - Sputnik International, 1920, 03.08.2021
The Islamist militant group ramped up offensive operations across the country in April after the US and its NATO allies announced that they would be withdrawing from Afghanistan after nearly two decades of occupation. All of Afghanistan's neighbours have called on the Taliban and Kabul government to negotiate peace.
The Taliban* are demanding a "lion's share of power" in any political settlement with the Afghan government based on "the military situation as they see it," US special envoy for Afghanistan Zalmay Khalilzad has complained.
"The situation is very concerning and our expectation is that both the government and the Talibs would focus on a political settlement. Right now the government's primary focus is to find its military bearings, if you like, after the losses that it suffered in recent weeks, to develop a new military strategy and to implement that strategy, believing that without that and too weak opposition to pursue a negotiated settlement," the diplomat said, speaking at the Aspen Security Forum on Tuesday.
"The Talibs have been emboldened by the developments of recent weeks in terms of the gains that they have made, and are in a maximalist frame of mind," he added.
Khalilzad further suggested that it was too early for the US to be able to say that it "trusts" the Taliban to do what they say, but that it is "taking them at their word."
"We're talking about international politics and especially with a group that we have been fighting for 20 years, so it's not a question of trust. We obviously have reached an agreement with [the Taliban] on a variety of issues, but at the same time, given the trust deficit that exists, we are taking measures to be able to secure our interests with appropriate preparations," he specified.
The diplomat stressed that a negotiated settlement was the only way out of Afghanistan's crisis, and in the interest not only of the US side, but of the region.
Armed men attend a gathering to announce their support for Afghan security forces and that they are ready to fight against the Taliban, on the outskirts of Kabul, Afghanistan June 23, 2021. - Sputnik International, 1920, 18.07.2021
Taliban Leader Says Group 'Strenuously Favours Political Settlement' Ahead of Eid Celebrations
Taliban negotiators have publicly expressed support for a political settlement to the growing civil crisis in the country, but at the same time have ramped up offensives across much of the country, recently launching operations against major cities for the first time since at least 2017.
While the February 2020 Doha agreement between the US and Taliban which facilitated the pullout of US and NATO troops promised the establishment of a "new Islamic government" in Afghanistan through negotiations, Kabul has sought to bring Taliban elements into the current government instead of having the militant group replace them.
In his remarks, Khalilzad emphasised that the US doesn't want to repeat "the mistake of the post-Soviet period, when together with the Afghans we achieved a great objective of pushing the Soviets out and then we abandoned Afghanistan with very negative consequences, including 9/11. We don't want to repeat that."
Also on Tuesday, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken was said to have conveyed in a phone call with Afghani President Ashraf Ghani the "strong and enduring" US commitment to Afghanistan.
"Both leaders condemned the ongoing Taliban attacks, which show little regard for human life and human rights, and deployed the loss of innocent Afghan civilian lives and displacement of the civilian population," the State Department said in a press release.
Kunduz residents bid farewell to Soviet troops heading home during the pullout from Afghanistan. - Sputnik International, 1920, 15.02.2019
Gromov on Afghanistan: US Did Everything to Halt Soviet Pullout or Ensure Losses
The 19+ year war in Afghanistan has cost the United States over $2 trillion, claimed the lives of roughly 3,500 US and NATO troops and 4,000+ Western mercenaries, and killed over 100,000 Afghan civilians and tens of thousands of Taliban fighters.
The current phase of the war began in late 2001 over the Taliban's refusal to hand suspected 9/11 mastermind Osama bin Laden over to the US. The generations-long conflict in Afghanistan began in the late 1970s, when the CIA, Saudi, Pakistani, and Chinese intelligence successfully lured Moscow into deploying troops in the country to support a Soviet-friendly secular socialist government in Kabul against an Islamist insurgency. Soviet troops withdrew in 1989, and the Afghan government collapsed in the early 1990s, turning the country into a failed state ruled by feuding factions - with the Taliban being the largest among them.
* A terrorist group outlawed in Russia and many other countries.
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