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Afghan Official Warns of U.S. Deal With Taliban ‘That Doesn’t End in Peace’

WASHINGTON — Afghanistan’s national security adviser on Thursday accused the American special envoy, Zalmay Khalilzad, of seeking personal benefit by sidelining the Afghan government during peace talks with the Taliban in a broadside in which he raised concerns about “a deal that doesn’t end in peace.”

The comments by Hamdullah Mohib, a senior Afghan government official, displayed Kabul’s high distrust of the Taliban just as negotiators edged closer to an agreement on at least one major element of a final deal: preventing more terrorist attacks from being launched from Afghanistan.

Mr. Khalilzad was expected to brief military and diplomatic officials on the offer in meetings in Washington on Thursday and Friday. The Afghan government has not been part of the discussions because the Taliban refuses to meet with its representatives.

Speaking to a small group of journalists in Washington on Thursday, Mr. Mohib said that Mr. Khalilzad and other American diplomats involved in the talks had dribbled out only “bits and pieces” of the negotiations to the Afghan government.

“We don’t have the kind of transparency we should have,” he said.

The talks, Mr. Mohib said, are “increasing the legitimacy of the Taliban” and “decreasing the legitimacy of the Afghan government.”

“We have sacrificed a hell of a lot,” Mr. Mohib said. “What we’re getting is a deal that doesn’t end in peace.”

He also suggested that Mr. Khalilzad had sidelined Afghan leaders because of his ambitions to be a “viceroy” in an interim government if the negotiations succeed.

“We see our relationship being impacted by what is going on, and we would like to rescue it,” Mr. Mohib said.

A spokesman for the State Department did not respond to an email seeking comment.

American officials have long insisted that Washington will not accept a peace deal with the Taliban without direct talks between the extremist group and the Afghan government.

Before it was ousted in 2001, the Taliban controlled broad areas of Afghanistan, imposing harsh religious laws on its residents. The group has been accused of human rights violations and kept women from attending school.

In a separate meeting with The New York Times on Tuesday, Mr. Mohib said that any agreement with the Taliban that could lead to diminished freedoms for Afghan women would be a “red line” for the government in Kabul. Nor, he said, would Afghan leaders consider ceding administrative control to the Taliban in areas of the country — mostly in the south — that American auditors have concluded the extremists already either control or influence.

The negotiations between the Taliban and the American diplomats are expected to resume in the coming weeks; the latest round wrapped up on Tuesday in Qatar after two weeks.

In testimony to the Senate Armed Services Committee on Thursday, Gen. Joseph F. Dunford Jr., the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said he was “encouraged” by the latest round of peace talks. He also said the American military’s recent increase in attacks on Taliban leadership had helped bring the group to the table.

“I think we’re all cautiously optimistic that there is, for the first time, serious inroads made into reconciliations,” General Dunford said, praising Mr. Khalilzad by name.

But for the Afghan military, which is fighting alongside American troops, Mr. Mohib said the negotiations, absent the Afghan government, have sown a level of mistrust among the ranks. Tens of thousands of Afghans have died since the American-led invasion of Afghanistan in 2001. Since 2014 alone, more than 30,000 Afghan troops have died fighting the Taliban.

“How do I convince my security forces they’re not being sold out?” Mr. Mohib said.


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