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Friday, May 27, 2022

Former special US envoy to Afghanistan sounds off on US’ ‘unfinished business’ in the country

Former special U.S. envoy to Afghanistan Zalmay Khalilzad said the United States “still ha[s] unfinished business in Afghanistan” on “The Story with Martha MacCallum” Friday in light of the Taliban’s takeover of the country last August.

“The agreement that we made – which was condition-based under…[former President Donald] Trump[‘s] administration – some of those conditions have not materialized.,” the author of “The Envoy: From Kabul to the White House, My Journey Through a Turbulent World” said. “The Taliban have not implemented those. We want to hold the Taliban accountable for those agreements. …I advocated that rather than disengaging, we need to press the Taliban to negotiate and reach an agreement on the implementation of the remaining parts dealing with terrorism…[and] the establishment of a broad-based government.”

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Khalilzad said he worried that “we were turning our back and not doing what we needed to do to protect the American interests still in Afghanistan.”

He argued that although President Biden’s administration is “concerned” about combatting terrorism, it will fester in an ungoverned environment if Afghanistan falls apart under the Taliban. The Biden administration is not negotiating with the Taliban because of its perception as a terrorist group, he said.

The former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations said the Taliban “want[s] normalcy in relations” with the U.S. and “the funds of Afghanistan and the [U.S.] to be unfrozen.”

Khalilzad confirmed MacCallum’s report that the Taliban did, in fact, allow the U.S. to “secure … Kabul as part of the [U.S.’] exit agreement.” Khalilzad revealed that Gen. Frank McKenzie said in a Doha meeting that his “mandate” was not to secure Kabul but to evacuate the approximately 2,500 American troops remaining.

Biden chose a calendar-based withdrawal over Trump’s condition-based withdrawal, Khalilzad said. He quelled concerns that al Qaeda or ISIS could attack the U.S. in the near future, saying the Taliban has so far upheld its commitment “not to allow … plotting and planning by al Qaeda and other groups against the [U.S.].”

When asked about the ISIS attack that killed 13 American troops in Kabul and the Syria attack, Khalilzad said although terrorism “remains a problem,” the U.S. has “other big challenges, such as the rise of China.” 

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“When we have the [terror] information and the targets, we should respond if the locals do not do the job,” he said.

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