US proposes interim government could run Afghanistan until new polls

Washington/Kabul: A US-drafted peace plan for Afghanistan calls for the current government to be replaced with an interim administration until a new constitution is agreed and elections held, while a joint commission monitors a ceasefire.

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The warring parties have long harboured deep objections to key ideas in the proposal, however.

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The US special envoy for Afghanistan, Zalmay Khalilzad, shared the “Transitional Peace Government” proposal last week with Afghan President Ashraf Gani, opposition and civil society leaders, and Taliban negotiators.

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Under the interim government, the national parliament could either be expanded to include Taliban members or suspended until after the election, the plan suggests. It also says that Afghanistan could “not host terrorists or permit terrorist-related activity on its soil” that threatens other countries, and that the Taliban would have to abandon safe havens and military ties “in neighbouring countries.” Four political sources in Kabul who spoke on condition of anonymity, including a senior presidential palace official, confirmed the authenticity of a copy of the draft plan seen by Reuters. The plan has been reported by TOLO News and other Afghan outlets.

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State Department spokesman Ned Price told reporters on Monday: “Every idea we have put on the table, every proposal that is out there … we understand that this process, at its core, must be Afghan-led and Afghan-owned.” The new US administration of President Joe Biden wants to revive stalled peace talks before May 1, when the last 2,500 US troops must leave Afghanistan under a February 2020 deal struck between the Taliban and the former Trump administration.

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Secretary of State Antony Blinken last week proposed in a letter to Afghan leaders that Turkey hold a senior-level meeting “in the coming weeks to finalise a peace agreement.”

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Interim government

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Gani has refused to step aside for a transitional government. The senior presidential palace official in Kabul echoed that on Monday: “We will never accept an interim set-up through a conference or a political deal.” The Taliban have rejected a ceasefire and elections. But a Taliban leader told Reuters that while the insurgents would not join an interim government, they were not opposed to one being formed.

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The US draft calls for the establishment of a transitional government, including an “executive administration” chosen by the sides, “with special consideration for the meaningful inclusion of women and members of all ethnic groups.” The interim administration “under a president chosen by both sides” would run the country until elections could be held under a constitution drafted by a commission selected by both sides and the president.

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A nationwide ceasefire would be monitored by a joint commission, with each side selecting four members and a ninth named by the interim president. Three international observers would work with the commission, the draft says.

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Laurel Miller, a former acting US special representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan, said the most “contentious” aspect of the US plan is how power would be apportioned within the transitional government.

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Miller, who now works with the International Crisis Group, a conflict resolution organisation, added that Taliban leaders “haven’t even revealed their starting positions in any substance, much less contemplated something like this.”

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