Afghanistan’s president has postponed a planned visit to Washington early next week where he was to discuss the U.S.-Taliban talks on ending America’s longest war, a person familiar with the negotiations said Friday.
The development emerged after the US envoy negotiating with the Taliban, Zalmay Khalilzad, abruptly returned to Qatar for unexpected talks with the insurgents on the deal that he had described as complete just days ago.
The agreement “in principle” to begin a US troop withdrawal only needed President Donald Trump’s approval, Khalilzad said on Monday.
It was not immediately clear why President Ashraf Ghani’s visit was postponed. The person who spoke to The Associated Press was not authorised to talk to reporters and spoke on condition of anonymity.
Since Khalilzad’s announcement, two horrific Taliban car bombings in the Afghan capital, Kabul, one of which killed a US service member and objections to the deal from the Afghan government and several former US ambassadors to Afghanistan have put pressure on Khalilzad as many wonder whether a deal will truly bring peace.
The Taliban have explained their surge in deadly attacks including on the capitals of northern Kunduz and Baghlan provinces last weekend as necessary to give them a stronger negotiating position in talks with the US.
The Afghan president has been shut out of the US-Taliban negotiations, and during Khalilzad’s visit to Kabul this week Ghani was shown the agreement but not allowed to keep it.
The Taliban have rejected negotiations with the Afghan government, seeing it as a puppet of the US, though it has expressed willingness to meet with Afghan officials in their personal capacity.