In the face of major Taliban gains, the US has dispatched Zalmay Khalilzad, the US envoy for the Afghan peace process, to Qatar. According to The Associated Press, Khalilzad delivered a warning to the Taliban on Tuesday that any government that takes power in Afghanistan by force would not be recognized internationally.
“Ambassador Khalilzad will be in Doha to help formulate a joint international response to the rapidly deteriorating situation in Afghanistan,” the State Department said in a statement on the envoy’s trip. “He will press the Taliban to stop their military offensive and to negotiate a political settlement, which is the only path to stability and development in Afghanistan.”
Senior Afghan officials and Pakistan’s National Security advisor Moeed Yusuf, have also traveled to Doha in an effort to jumpstart peace talks, and the Taliban maintain a political office in the city.
Khalilzad recognizes the leverage the Taliban will have over the US-backed government in negotiations. Last week, the US envoy said the Taliban wants the “lion’s share” of the power in any future government due to the military advantage it has. “It’s just a struggle for a balance of power, dispensation of power between various factions,” Khalilzad said.
In an interview with AP in July, a Taliban spokesman said the group would not seek the “monopoly of power” in a future government and called for Afghan President Ashraf Ghani to step down.
The Taliban have been rolling through provincial capitals, capturing eight in just five days. The US has stepped up airstrikes in response to the offensive, but it doesn’t seem to be doing much to slow the Taliban down. Biden officials have signaled that the Taliban gains will not impact the president’s decision to complete the withdrawal by August 31st.