Islamabad: The Taliban has said that it won’t attend a peace conference tentatively planned for later this week in Turkey, putting US efforts to get a peace plan anytime soon in jeopardy.
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken previously said he wanted to see a peace agreement between Afghanistan’s warring sides finalized at a conference hosted by Turkey and attended by top officials from both the Taliban and the Afghan government.
Afghan government, US and Turkish officials had said they intended to begin the conference on April 16. It was to last 10 days.
No new date for the Turkey conference was set but time is running out on a May 1 deadline for the withdrawal of US and NATO troops from Afghanistan in keeping with a deal the Trump administration made with the Taliban more than a year ago.
President Joe Biden has said he is committed to ending America’s longest war but the US is reportedly looking for a three- to six-month extension.
Until now the Taliban have refused, warning of “consequences” if Washington reneges on the deal and the withdrawal timeline.
Last month, Blinken gave both the Taliban and the Afghan government an eight-page proposed peace plan, which they were to discuss, revise and review and come to Turkey ready to cobble together an agreement.
Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, who has grown increasingly isolated in Kabul as his political opponents accuse him of clinging to power, offered an alternative to Blinken’s proposal. Ghani supported an interim government that he would head until elections could be held within months.
The Taliban have made it clear they would not accept a government headed by Ghani, but they have yet to offer an alternative to Binken’s proposal.
Blinken announced the Turkey meeting in a sharply worded letter to Ghani and other Afghan leaders. In that letter Blinken warned that a US withdrawal without a political settlement would leave Ghani’s government vulnerable to Taliban gains. (News 95.7)