By Shadi Khan Saif
KABUL, Afghanistan (AA) – Top Afghan officials on Monday acknowledged that US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken had sent a letter to President Ashraf Ghani calling for urgent action on the thorny peace process with the Taliban.
Foreign Minister Mohammad Haneef Atmar told a news conference in the capital Kabul that the letter, leaked by the country’s Tolo News, had indeed been sent to Ghani by Blinken.
“I do not see it as disrespect, but instead it demonstrates closeness in ties between the two states. It has once again insisted on strengthening the mutual national interests of the US and Afghanistan and on accelerating the peace process and making the outcome acceptable to the public,” said Atmar.
At a separate gathering in Kabul, Afghan Vice President Amrullah Saleh warned of a lack of mutual respect in the bilateral relationship.
He said Afghanistan values its relationship with the US, but under no circumstances should anyone deprive the Afghan people of their right to vote. “We are not worried about this letter, nor has our position changed,” he added.
Saleh said the West and the US have the right to decide on their forces in Afghanistan, but it is also the legitimate right of Afghans not to compromise the fate of 35 million people for the sake of the “calendar of others.”
He added the Afghan government is ready to engage with the Taliban on the date and mechanism of the elections.
In the letter, Blinken reportedly stated that Washington intended to ask the UN to convene foreign ministers and envoys from Russia, China, Pakistan, Iran, India, and the US to discuss how to promote peace in Afghanistan.
He also warned in the letter that security could worsen and the Taliban could make territorial gains, as the US is still considering full withdrawal of its forces by May 1.
Under the February 2020 US-Taliban deal, all foreign troops will leave Afghanistan by May 2021, and the Taliban have to guarantee it has cut ties with international terrorists. However, after its election victory last November, the Biden administration announced that it would review the Trump-era deal with the Taliban.