US Special Representative for Afghanistan Reconciliation Zalmay Khalilzad has said that he doesn’t believe that there will be “imminent collapse” of the Afghan government after American troops leave.
“Some of our analysts are worst-case circumstances on challenges that we confront,” Khalilzad told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. “But I think it would be a mistake in my judgment to dismiss the Afghan security forces as not being a credible force that could perform well, although they will face more difficult circumstances now.”
“I do not believe that the government is going to collapse, that the Taliban is going to take over,” he said.
The statement comes as a top Republican senator, James E. Risch of Idaho, said that the withdrawal “may result in a Taliban offensive that topples the government.”
“Most of the people who work in this space think that’s the direction it is headed. . . . Our departure from Afghanistan will not improve conditions on the ground,” the senator said.
Khalilzad said that the choice that the Afghans face is between a negotiated political settlement or a long war.
“I hope they will come together and cooperate,” he said of the militants, the Afghan government and political forces, saying that continued war was “senseless” for all concerned. “The opportunity is there. Our support is there. The support of the international community is largely there as well.”
The militants have a choice “between two futures,” he said. They can “embrace a negotiated path to peace, make the transition from violent insurgency to a political movement” and earn “respect in the global community.”
“But if they obstruct a negotiated settlement, and instead pursue a military takeover, they will be opposed not only by the Afghan Republic, but by the United States and allies and partners in the region,” including isolation and sanctions.
Khalilzad said that the United States has been “less satisfied,” with the Taliban’s compliance with a pledge to sever ties with terrorist groups, principally al-Qaeda, and not permit them to plot, plan, recruit or carry out attacks against the United States and its allies.
“There are other areas in which we are less satisfied,” he said. “The level of violence has been too high compared to what we expected to happen.”
Sen. Ron Johnson said: “I’ve never seen much evidence of the Taliban embracing the modern world.”
Khalilzad said: “We will have to see whether in practice they will…They say they do. Obviously they have their own values. . . . But those values that they speak about, Islam, that is present in many countries in the world. . . . We see those values practiced differently from place to place.”
“The Talibs say they are interested in not being a pariah,” he said. “All I can say is we have made it clear that if they do” move forward, “there can be progress in our relationship.” If they do not, isolation will be “inevitable.”