Speaking to Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad during a classified hearing on Afghan peace talks, Senator Menendez “First, you have claimed progress in securing counter terrorism guarantees. This is perhaps the most critical component of a very complex peace deal.”
“Count me, though, as very skeptical that the Taliban is committed to opposing terrorist groups. It sees ISIS as a competitor and will fiercely counter its presence in the country. But ISIS is not the only active group there – what about Al Qaeda? What about Lashkar-i-Taiba? The Haqqani Network is part of the Taliban, but will we no longer see it as a terrorist group? And even if the Taliban had the political will to deny safe haven to these groups, is it capable? I am doubtful,” Senator Menendez added.
The Senator further added “In connection with apparent Taliban counterterrorism commitments, you have reportedly agreed to framework on the withdrawal of U.S. troops, without progress on a ceasefire or on an intra-Afghan dialogue process. Are the Taliban honestly incentivized to negotiate on a ceasefire and intra-Afghan dialogue after having made so much progress on their main goal of U.S. withdrawal? Won’t they just wait us out?”
This comes as the U.S. and Taliban representatives have so far participated in six rounds of peace talks in Qatari capital of Doha with Ambassador Khalilzad calling the previous rounds of talks as constructive despite no major breakthrough has been made to achieve a ceasefire and launch intra-Afghan dialogue.