April 2, 2019
The peace-in-name-only agreement U.S. special envoy Zalmay Khalilzad has been negotiating with Pakistan’s foot soldiers if implemented could accomplish the miraculous by potentially making Afghanistan even more unstable – a notion supported by risks highlighted in a newly-released U.S. inspector general’s report. The risks, however, might be understated given Khalilzad wants to play the role of kingmaker – as he did after 9/11. In fact, some suspect the special envoy may even attempt an act of self-anointment. The question is: Who will stop him?
Since Secretary of State Mike Pompeo tragically tapped Khalilzad to be special envoy in September dark agendas have been driving the U.S.-Taliban talks. The appointment itself was regrettable considering Khalilzad in 2002 ruined any chance for peace in Afghanistan by strong-arming King Zahir Shah aside to insert Hamid Karzai as puppet king, against the will of the Afghan people, before awarding ministry posts to extremists and warlords.
After talks in Doha earlier this year Khalilzad and his Taliban brethren suspiciously claimed to have reached a “framework” deal to end the war in Afghanistan. According to the deal, U.S. forces would leave in exchange for Taliban promises not to incubate international terrorists.
Khalilzad appears willing to unilaterally legitimize and hand power to the Taliban, an extremist minority sect that makes up well below one percent of the population, without any feedback from the other 35 million Afghans.
Khalilzad is not frightening simply because he is a narcissist lunatic – he is frightening because he is a clever narcissistic lunatic. The U.S. special envoy has cunningly left the Afghan government out of all proceedings and his briefings to President Ashraf Ghani have been insultingly short. He knows very well that the Ghani regime, itself plagued by avarice and incompetence, has struggled to achieve legitimacy in the eyes of most Afghans.
The raw power grab became even more apparent when the Prime Minister of Pakistan, Imran Khan, on March 25, told reporters that Afghanistan should establish an “interim government” considering the Taliban refuse to negotiate with Kabul. Although Khalilzad adeptly tweeted a statement rejecting the prime minister’s remarks, one wonders where Khan got the idea in the first place.
Suddenly, stepping through the fog and noise of the Machiavellian Great Game shenanigans, stepped a brave Afghan official who said enough was enough. Ghani security adviser, Hamdullah Mohib, dared to suggest that Khalilzad had been trying to undermine Kabul.
On March 14, before talks at the State Department, Mohib told reporters that Khalilzad is delegitimizing and weakening the Afghan government while elevating the Taliban. The Afghan security adviser argued that there could only be one motive behind this lack of transparency. “It’s definitely not for peace,” Mohib said as quoted by Reuters.
“Knowing Ambassador Khalilzad’s history, his own personal history, he has ambitions in Afghanistan. He was wanting to run for president twice,” Mohib continued. “The perception in Afghanistan and people in government think that perhaps, perhaps all this talk is to create a caretaker government of which he will then become the viceroy.”
The U.S. State Department, of course, went embarrassingly ballistic. U.S. officials excoriated, sanctioned and blacklisted Mohib – all for telling the truth.
Meanwhile, according to a new report released by the U.S. Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR), life under the Khalilzad-Taliban peace agreement looks quite ominous. The report said that failure to reintegrate 60,000 heavily armed insurgents would threaten any so-called accord.
“Disaffected former Taliban who may have been expecting a peace dividend may return to violent and predatory behavior,” SIGAR spokesperson Lauren Mick said in a press release accompanying the report on March 28.
In addition, of course, SIGAR sounded the alarm that women’s rights could be in jeopardy under revival of Taliban rule.
Khalilzad is not helping matters. The Taliban apparently want to amend the Afghan constitution to make it more Islamic – and it is not apparent the U.S. special envoy has pushed back. Khalilzad, who referred to one of the Taliban leaders as “a patriot,” is a unique mixture – an Afghan native neoconservative cowboy who has been an apologist for the movement and has defended some of their most barbaric values.
Hence, I ask, does any sane person truly believe the Taliban will respect reforms instituted since 2001 in the area of women’s rights? Afghan activist Sima Wali said it best when she quipped: “You show me a moderate Talib and I will show you a moderate Nazi.”
One can only pray the international community steps up and promotes a broader multilateral effort to save Afghanistan from a single man’s twisted schemes and aspirations.
In the end, one wonders if Afghanistan would be better off if the United States simply picked up all of its toys and left tomorrow without negotiating a thing, as opposed to leaving the Afghan people to suffer under a devils’ bargain between Khalilzad and the religious extremists he wants to empower.