KABUL: The Biden administration should engage with the Taliban to help ease the humanitarian crisis unfolding in the country now, said former United States special envoy for Afghanistan Zalmay Khalilzad.
Khalilzad, who negotiated the US withdrawal with the Taliban ending a 20-year military presence, on Wednesday defended the agreement and Taliban leadership while blaming former Afghan President Ashraf Ghani for the failure of peace talks and the fall of Kabul.
Allowing the new Taliban government in Kabul to fall apart would create a “huge humanitarian crisis” and trigger migration of millions of Afghans, destabilise the region and “create space for terrorism”, the former US ambassador warned.
The Taliban are seeking “normal relations” with the US and want the US to reopen its embassy in Kabul, lift financial sanctions and provide economic assistance, he said.
“We need to sit with them to agree to a roadmap that takes into account the issue of distrust, or mistrust of each other and their behavior (on human rights) that we expect to take place … and in exchange for that, the specific steps that we would take,” Khalilzad said.
Khalilzad’s remarks came in an interview with the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, a Washington-based think-tank focused on geopolitics.
Khalilzad had been Washington’s point-man in negotiating a deal with the Taliban for a US military withdrawal coupled with peace talks with the Western-backed government in Kabul. That effort ended with Taliban forces ignoring Western and Afghan government demands for ceasefire and overran the Afghan army and police.