WASHINGTON: The Taliban are seeking to ensure it receives the “lion’s share” of power in any prospective peace deal, the special US envoy for the conflict said on Tuesday.
Addressing the Aspen Security Forum, Zalmay Khalilzad said the Afghan government is currently trying to “find its military bearings after the losses that it suffered in recent weeks and to develop a new military strategy” following the Taliban’s sweeping battlefield gains. Without that, Kabul believes “it’s in too weak a position to pursue a negotiated settlement,” he said.
“The Talibs have been emboldened by the developments of recent weeks in terms of the gains that they have made, and are in a maximalist frame of mine,” said Khalilzad, referring to the Taliban. “At this point, they are demanding that they take the lion’s share of power in the next government given the military situation as they see it.”
The comments come as the Taliban press their offensive against government forces in the cities of Herat, Lashkargah, and Kandahar, prompting the UN to raise alarm over mounting civilian casualties in the war-ravaged country.
“Taliban ground offensive & ANA (Afghan National Army) airstrikes causing most harm. Deep concerns about indiscriminate shooting, & damage to/occupation of health facilities & civilian homes,” the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan said on Twitter.
“Parties must do more to protect civilians or impact will be catastrophic,” it warned.
After overrunning nearly 200 rural districts, the Taliban began assaults on major cities on Friday as they marched on Herat city near the border with Iran, causing panic and anxiety in the country’s third-biggest city, home to an estimated 500,000 inhabitants.
Khalilzad implored the parties to fully commit to a negotiated settlement, saying “this war has no legitimacy any more. It’s just a struggle for a dispensation of power between various factions, and no Afghan, especially civilian Afghans should die because of that.”
“We are doing all we can to help a very deserving people achieve a peace that they want and that they’re yearning for,” he said.-AA