US proposes new summit with Taliban on interim Afghan government

US proposes new summit with Taliban on interim Afghan government
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The Biden administration’s top envoy to Afghanistan proposed forming a conference of Afghan and Taliban leaders to hammer out an interim government in a sign that the White House would like peace talks to move faster.

The idea was proposed this week by Zalmay Khalilzad, the government’s top peace negotiator for Afghanistan, according to The Wall Street Journal. The new format would likely push aside a peace deal that was negotiated between the Trump administration and the Taliban and also likely delay a troop withdrawal from the country.

The Afghan government is “reviewing any possible way to get to a dignified peace for our people,” senior Afghan government negotiator Nader Nadery told the Journal. “This republic is built on sacrifices of a large number of our people and our international partners. A dignified peace must protect these.”

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The National Security Council referred The Hill to the State Department, which did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The White House downplayed the proposal to the Journal, saying that Khalilzad is merely exploring an array of options to move forward.

“This report does not accurately capture the state of play. The United States is not making any formal proposals and is continuing to review all relevant options for future force posture—and all means all,’’ the White House said in a statement. “Ambassador Khalilzad has discussed a range of ways to move the diplomacy forward, nothing more.”
 
The State Department added Friday that the path forward to end the war in Afghanistan is up to Afghans.
 
"Special Representative Khalilzad and his team, they’re in the region. They’re meeting with Afghan and regional leaders to discuss a path forward and a path forward that produces durable results. The outcomes of Afghan – Afghanistan peace negotiations are up to Afghans. We believe those outcomes should reflect the wishes and the aspirations of the Afghan people," spokesperson Ned Price said at a press conference Friday.

The proposal comes as President BidenJoe BidenCDC working to tighten testing requirement for international travelers On The Money — Powell pivots as inflation rises Overnight Energy & Environment — Presented by ExxonMobil — Manchin seeks 'adjustments' to spending plan MORE considers his next moves for Afghanistan.

The administration has poured cold water on the prospect of having a full troop withdrawal by May, as laid out in the Trump-era peace deal, due to ongoing violence in Afghanistan. The Taliban, which has waged attacks against Afghan troops, has threatened to renew strikes on U.S. forces if the withdrawal does not occur.

“I urge all parties to choose the path towards peace. The violence must decrease, now,” Defense Secretary Lloyd AustinLloyd AustinOvernight Defense & National Security — Austin mandates vaccine for Guardsmen Austin orders all National Guard, Reserve troops to get COVID-19 vaccine or face loss of pay Gillibrand, bipartisan lawmakers push to keep military justice overhaul in NDAA MORE said last month.

“I told our allies that no matter what the outcome of our review, the United States will not undertake a hasty or disorderly withdrawal from Afghanistan,” he added, referring to talks with NATO allies. “There will be no surprises. We will consult each other, consult together and decide together and act together.”

Amid the stall, Khalilzad also reportedly suggested appointing a mediator to help move along the peace process between the Taliban and Afghan officials.

Updated at 10:27 p.m.