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Blinken’s Letter and Ghani’s Political Games

Last week, US Secretary of State, Antony Blinken wrote a letter to Afghan leadership. Between the lines of this letter, the voice of complaints about Ghani can be clearly heard. It is similar to Khalilzad’s complaints about Ghani’s arguments, Karzai and Sayyaf’s complaints, and political figures’ complaints about Ghani’s monopoly, and even the Taliban’s complaints about the government’s incompetent peace body. In each line of the letter, the United States is concerned about the lack of Ghani’s cooperation with the America regarding peace process. For this reason, the tone of the US Secretary of State has been deliberately chosen to be strongly enough to make Ashraf Ghani understand the US’s will and end his game.
Blinken put an end to the rumors of Khalilzad’s dismissal and asked Ghani to cooperate with Khalilzad. Take Karzai and Sayyaf with him and build a new “inclusive government”. In what Blinken called the “initial assessment” of Afghanistan’s strategy in the Biden administration, he said US would accelerate peace talks and bring all parties into compliance with their commitments. According to the letter, the United States can also consider withdrawing its troops by the first of May and may not take the risk of re-engaging with the Taliban.
Although the US Secretary of State has spoken with the strongest words to stop Ghani from any other thoughts and challenges, not all the doors have been closed to Ghani yet. The history of Afghanistan has shown that someone sitting in Arg does not stop playing until the last moment. Ashraf Ghani still has a lot of playing space that he will definitely use:
1. The Secretary of State has expressed great hope for the diplomatic cooperation of regional powers with the United States in the peace process, while China, Russia and Pakistan have each planned for years for the US withdrawal from Afghanistan. Blinken took a strong stance against China and Russia in his first US foreign policy speech last week, and now calls on China and Russia to work together in Afghanistan in the first practical step. Ghani can play the role of a proxy to any of the regional countries as well.
2. The text of the letter speaks of a “new” political system, but says that the United States “does not impose terms”. This vague stance leaves room for Ghani to play and maneuver. Although “peace propaganda” has been mentioned several times, it is still at the proposed level. In a speech to parliament yesterday, Ghani called them “dreams on paper” and ridiculed them.
3. It is true that mentioning Abdullah, Karzai and Sayyaf in this letter puts them in a higher position of political bargaining with Ghani, but the US Secretary of State did not say exactly where each of them stands. For example, where exactly is Karzai and Sayyaf in the peace process and the future government, and again, this vague position has left the Ghani some room to play.
4. The letter states that the Biden administration is not interested in imposing an “interim government” because any new political arrangements dictated by the United States must take over its financial and political resources, and another process begins that will further engage the United States. The state-building efforts in Afghanistan will suffer unless the interim government results in peace talks that the United States aspires to do, but that is exactly what gives Ghani the idea that he can continue his rule, albeit a shaky one.
It may be the first time that a US Secretary of State has acknowledged in an official document that the Taliban may make “rapid gains in territory” next spring, but Ghani does not appear to be as concerned about the Taliban’s spring operation. This statement by the US Secretary of State has no direct practical effect on the game being played by Arg, except that it indirectly strengthens the hope of a military victory for the Taliban.
The letter states that the United States wants a “90-day” ceasefire just as the last of its troops withdraws from Afghanistan, and give an impression that Afghanistan is calm and at peace, so that it can avoid the impression of failure in the longest war in US history. However, in order to remove that impression the US will require to do a lot more than it is doing now.
(Sahar News)

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