India, Iran and Russia to be part of new US initiative to find settlement in Afghanistan

The United States plans to convene a meeting with the foreign ministers of India, Russia, China, Pakistan and Iran to forge a common approach to end the war in Afghanistan while simultaneously taking steps to expedite a settlement with the Taliban.

This was conveyed by US Secretary of State Antony Blinken in a letter to President Ashraf Ghani. The letter marks the first time the new Biden administration has described its approach to Afghanistan as it undertakes a review of the troubled peace process with the Taliban as well as plans for the withdrawal of all US forces from the country. war-torn by May 1.

Shortly after Blinken’s letter was accessed by Tolo News in Afghanistan on Sunday afternoon, the United States Special Representative for Reconciliation in Afghanistan Zalmay Khalilzad spoke by telephone with the Foreign Minister. S Jaishankar to discuss the peace process.

“Received a call from US Special Representative Zalmay Khalilzad @ US4AfghanPeace. Discussed the latest developments regarding the peace talks. We will keep in touch, ”Jaishankar tweeted, without giving details.

There was no other official word on developments on the American and Indian sides.

In his letter, Blinken highlighted four elements that he said are part of a “high-level diplomatic effort with the parties and with the countries of the region and the United Nations” to get things done “more fundamentally and more. quickly towards a settlement and a permanent and comprehensive ceasefire. “.

As a first step, the United States intends to “ask the United Nations to summon foreign ministers and envoys from Russia, China, Pakistan, Iran, India and the United States. to discuss a unified approach to supporting peace in Afghanistan, ”Blinken wrote.

“I am convinced that these countries share a constant common interest in a stable Afghanistan and must work together if we are to be successful,” he added.

There was a perception in New Delhi that Khalilzad’s efforts under the Trump administration placed greater emphasis on Pakistan and ignored many of India’s concerns related to Afghanistan. Some neighborhoods in New Delhi and Kabul even felt that Khalilzad did not give enough importance to the Afghan government in its efforts to advance the peace process after the United States and the Taliban signed a deal in Doha in February. 2020.

Blinken’s efforts to chain in both India and Iran seem to indicate a desire to balance the process by launching into all states that have influence in Afghanistan.

As a second element of the new effort, Blinken wrote that he had asked Khalilzad to prepare and share with Ghani and the Taliban leadership “written proposals to speed up discussions on a negotiated settlement and a ceasefire.” “. These proposals will reflect ideas included in a roadmap for the peace process that Afghan National Security Advisor Hamdullah Mohib shared with US Ambassador to Kabul Ross Wilson.

“By sharing these documents, we do not intend to dictate terms to the parties. On the contrary, the documents will allow [the Afghan government] and the Taliban to move urgently to the task of developing a) the basic principles that will guide the future constitutional and governing arrangements of Afghanistan, b) a road map to a new inclusive government; and c) the terms of a permanent and comprehensive ceasefire, ”he wrote.

The third element will be for the United States to ask the Turkish government to host a high-level meeting of the Afghan government and the Taliban in the coming weeks to “finalize a peace deal.” Blinken added, “I urge you or your authoritative representatives to join the other representatives of the Islamic Republic at this meeting.”

The fourth element of the effort will be aimed at reducing violence. Blinken wrote that he shared Ghani’s view that “all efforts must be made to reduce the high levels of violence in Afghanistan, which are wreaking unacceptable havoc on the Afghan people and profoundly undermining efforts to achieve peace. peace”.

He added that the United States has prepared a “revised proposal for a 90-day reduction in violence, which aims to prevent a Taliban spring offensive and coincide with our diplomatic efforts to support a political settlement.” He added that Khalilzad would share this proposal with Ghani.

At the same time, Blinken called for greater unity among Afghan politicians to move the process forward. “Unity and inclusiveness on the [Afghan] are, I believe, essential for the difficult work that lies ahead. As you and your compatriots know all too well, the disunity of the Afghan leadership proved disastrous in the early 1990s and must not be allowed to sabotage the opportunity that presented itself to us, ”he said.

Blinken urged Ghani to build consensus on specific goals and objectives for negotiation with the Taliban “on governance, power sharing and essential support principles.”

He also said that, as the review of the Biden administration continued, the United States “has not ruled out any options” and “is still considering the complete withdrawal of our forces by May 1, while we are considering other options ”.

“Even with the continued financial assistance from the United States to your forces after an American military withdrawal, I fear that the security situation is worsening and that the Taliban may achieve rapid territorial gains,” he said. declared.

Sameer Patil, international security studies fellow at Gateway House, said it seemed like a clear attempt by the Biden administration to move away from Donald Trump’s legacy on Afghanistan.

“Trump has often been accused of not involving regional powers like India and Iran because of his own foreign policy priorities. If we want to achieve lasting peace in Afghanistan, we need to bring in regional powers, while diminishing attention to Pakistan. I would say it’s a more balanced approach, ”Patil said.