The US secretary of state, Antony Blinken, has proposed a series of steps to help restart stalled peace talks between the government of Afghanistan and the Taliban, according to a letter from Blinken to President Ashraf Ghani published on Sunday by Afghanistan‘s TOLONews.
Blinken also made clear the Biden administration continues to consider a “full withdrawal” of the roughly 2,500 US forces in the country by the 1 May deadline negotiated by the Trump administration.
Afghanistan presents one of the new administration’s most difficult foreign policy decisions. The US public is weary of a war nearly 20 years old but pulling out could be seen as giving the Taliban too much leverage and casting a shadow over sacrifices made by US and coalition troops and Afghan civilians.
Blinken’s letter calls for bringing the two sides together for a United Nations-facilitated conference with foreign ministers and envoys from Russia, China, Pakistan, Iran, India and the US, “to discuss a unified approach to supporting peace in Afghanistan”.
Blinken also calls for talks between the Afghan government and Taliban in Turkey in the coming weeks, to hammer out a revised proposal for a 90-day reduction in violence.
The secretary of state has also called on US special envoy Zalmay Khalilzad to share with both the Afghan government and Taliban written proposals to help accelerate discussions, according to the TOLONews report.
The state department declined to comment.
“We have not made any decisions about our force posture in Afghanistan after 1 May,” it said in a statement. “All options remain on the table.”
Blinken urged Ghani to quickly embrace the proposal and underscored his concern that the security situation could quickly deteriorate as the weather warms.
“Even with the continuation of financial assistance from the United States to your forces after an American military withdrawal, I am concerned that the security situation will worsen and the Taliban could make rapid territorial gains,” Blinken wrote in the letter.