It has now been more than a month since the Taliban surrounded Kabul and took over the reigns of the Afghanistan government. The abrupt departure of President Ashraf Ghani however threw a spanner into negotiations. The US negotiator on Afghanistan insists that he had managed to secure a two-week grace period mere hours before Kabul fell - something that fell apart as Ghani abruptly fled the country.
But as Ghani fled on August 15, the Taliban had reportedly asked if US troops would ensure security for Kabul as government authority crumbled. "And then you know what happened, we weren't going to take responsibility," Zalmay Khalilzad told the Financial Times.
In his first interview since the collapse of the 20-year western-backed government, the Afghan-American diplomat who brokered the 2020 deal with the Taliban to withdraw US troops contends that the Taliban had agreed to remain outside for two weeks and shape a future government.
Interestingly, US officials appear to recall the situation somewhat differently. As per a CNN-News18 report quoting anonymous sources, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken had wanted to replace Khalilzad hours before the Taliban’s forced takeover in Kabul. The sources add that this had been spoken about during the final phone call between Ghani and Blinken on August 14.
According to the report, Blinken had wanted Salman Ahmed to lead the peace efforts. A former member of Obama's National Security Council, the Pakistani-American currently the Director of Policy Planning in the Biden Administration. Earlier, he had even been dispatched to Doha to aid assist Khalilzad with negotiations during the Taliban takeover.
Asked about Khalilzad's remarks, state department spokesman Ned Price had reportedly said that it was not an option to stay "a moment longer" in Kabul.
(With inputs from agencies)
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