The US’s chief negotiator with the Afghan Taliban, Zalmay Khalilzad, said on Friday that Iran had not been adequately supportive of a US-led attempt to get the Taliban militant group and the Afghan government to negotiate.
“Iran has not been as supportive as it should be in the effort to get to intra-Afghan negotiations and an Afghan settlement largely due to our (the US’s) relations with them,” Khalilzad said.
The Iranian Embassy in Kabul responded in a statement on Saturday by saying that the Islamic Republic’s unchanging policy was to support the establishment of a peace that was “based on the outcomes of intra-Afghan negotiations, which are owned and led by Afghans [themselves].”
The Iranian diplomatic mission advised American officials to “carefully study the positions of Iranian officials about regional issues and Afghanistan before making comments [about those positions].”
The US has reached a deal with the Taliban to withdraw its forces from Afghanistan. While the deal imposes obligations on the Afghan government, negotiations that led to the agreement did not involve Afghan government representatives. The Taliban said openly at the time of the negotiations that they did not recognize the Afghan government. They have refused to make such a recognition publicly as of yet, even though they have been carrying out a prisoner exchange with Kabul under the deal more recently.
The US deal also does not obligate an end to Taliban attacks on the Afghan government and people.
Khalilzad, himself of Afghan origin, negotiated that deal for America.
Iran has opposed the US military occupation of Afghanistan and has expressed readiness to cooperate with any effort for intra-Afghan dialog.
Khalilzad dispatched to Kabul
The US-Taliban deal has been slow to progress in recent weeks. The Afghan government has had reservations about releasing some Taliban militants who have been imprisoned because of involvement in violent attacks. The militant group, on the other hand, has been insisting that they be released.
Taliban violence has also visibly increased in Afghanistan since the deal was signed. The militants, while refraining from attacks on US and other foreign forces as required by the deal, have ramped up assaults on Afghan civilians and government forces.
The US State Department announced on Saturday that Washington had dispatched Khalilzad to Kabul to press for talks between the Afghan government and the Taliban militant group.
The department said Khalilzad would focus on the resolution of the remaining issues ahead of intra-Afghan negotiations, specifically final prisoner exchanges and reduced violence.
Intra-Afghan talks have repeatedly been delayed. The talks were initially supposed to start in March.
The Taliban said on Thursday that they were prepared to sit down for negotiations with Kabul after the Eid al-Adha celebrations at the end of July on the condition that the prisoner swap is completed by then.
Kabul frees another 50 Taliban prisoners
Meanwhile, the Afghan government released another 50 Taliban prisoners on Saturday.
The Afghan news channel TOLO News cited a source with the Afghan National Security Council as saying that among those freed were militants who had been detained for serious crimes.
The US and a number of its allies invaded Afghanistan to topple a Taliban regime in 2001, accusing it of harboring the al-Qaeda terrorist group. The militants now control or hold influence over more Afghan territory than at any point since that time.