KABUL: White House press secretary Jen Psaki, referring to Afghanistan during a press conference on Monday, said that US President Joe Biden “wants to take the time to make the right decision” on Afghanistan.
“It will be tough to meet the May 1st deadline for full withdrawal, for logistical reasons,” Jen Psaki said. “We are continuing — he’s continuing to consult internally with his national security team and advisers and, of course, also with our partners and allies,” she said. A week ago, the US special envoy for Afghanistan’s reconciliation Zalmay Khalilzad met with senior Taliban leaders including Mullah Baradar, the head of the Taliban’s political office in Doha, to discuss provisions of the US-Taliban peace agreement, including the withdrawal of US forces from Afghanistan, according to the Taliban’s spokesman Mohammad Naeem.
In the meantime, the United States reportedly asked the Taliban to agree to the continued presence of American forces for three or six months in Afghanistan after the May 1 deadline, sources close to the Taliban have said. According to the sources, the Taliban has so far not made their final decision about the request; however, the group has apparently insisted that first their 7,000 prisoners should be released, and names of Taliban officials should be dropped from the UN blacklist. Under the US-Taliban peace agreement signed on February 2020, all US forces stationed in Afghanistan must leave the country by May 1. But sources close to the Taliban have said that the Biden administration has asked the Taliban to agree on the presence of the US forces for another three or six months.
This comes as an UN-led conference on Afghanistan is expected to be held in Turkey this month. Sources familiar with the matter have said that two dates – April 12 and 16 – are under discussion by involved parties for the meeting that some have said will continue for 10 days. In the meantime, senior political leaders and government officials are reviewing over 25 peace proposals, including that of the Presidential Palace, to make a unified peace roadmap for the upcoming conference in Turkey. The committee reviewing the proposals operates under the High Council for National Reconciliation and is led by former vice president Mohammad Yunus Qanooni, and its members are politicians and senior government officials, including the national security adviser. The peace proposals have been sent by political parties to the council. The 15-member committee is also reviewing views from 30 members of the council about the peace proposals.