Afghanistan’s national security adviser refused a United States demand to apologize for accusing President Trump’s envoy Zalmay Khalilzad of “ostracizing” Afghanistan as the U.S. conducts peace talks with the Taliban, according to a report.
“We are told that Ambassador Khalilzad is a great diplomat, and he knows what he’s doing,” Hamdullah Mohib told reporters last week in Washington. “I’m not sure I buy that. He is ostracizing, alienating a very trusted ally and partner.”
Mohib also condemned what he said was lack of transparency from Khalilzad during his meetings with the Taliban this year and implied that Khalilzad, a former U.S ambassador to Iraq and to Afghanistan, was behaving in his own self-interest.
“The perception in Afghanistan, people in the government think that perhaps, perhaps all this talk is to create a caretaker government of which he will then become the viceroy,” Mohib said.
In response, the U.S. privately demanded Mohib apologize for the comments and threatened to exclude him from official contacts if he failed to do so. But Mohib pushed back and did not issue an apology, NBC News reports.
Khalilzad and Mohib have not communicated in recent days, and U.S. officials haven’t been in touch with him either.
Afghan officials have become increasingly irritated over a lack of involvement in discussions with the Taliban, which has resisted negotiating with the Afghan government. Despite Khalilzad’s push for inter-Afghan dialogue during peace negotiations, Mohib asserted last week the Afghan government only receives “bits and pieces of information” at any given time.
A State Department spokesperson told the Washington Examiner that Mohib’s comments were “ inaccurate and unhelpful.” According to NBC, the State Department “summoned” Mohib for a meeting with Undersecretary of State David Hale to tell Mohib the comments “only serve to hinder the bilateral relationship and the peace process.”
Meanwhile, Afghan officials denied Mohib was “summoned” and said the meeting was scheduled in advance. A U.S. official told NBC the meeting was first scheduled because of Mohib’s comments at an earlier event where he rebuked U.S. handling of peace discussions and claimed that Pakistan was filtering terrorists into Afghanistan.
Mohib reportedly lashed out at Hale and said he had the backing of Afghan President Ashraf Ghani. He warned Hale the U.S. would lose an ally if changes were not made in the approach to peace negotiations.
Last week Khalilzad announced that a draft agreement was secured at the most recent peace discussion with the Taliban in Doha, Qatar. The draft deal calls for the Taliban to bar al Qaeda and the Islamic State from entering Afghanistan where they could plot against the U.S. and the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Afghanistan. Removing U.S. troops from Afghanistan has been a top priority for the Taliban.
“It’s clear all sides want to end the war. Despite ups and downs, we kept things on track and made real strides,” Khalilzad tweeted Tuesday. “My next step is discussions in Washington and consultations with other partners,” Khalilzad said. “We will meet again soon, and there is no final agreement until everything is agreed.”