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The Taliban are winning on the battlefield as US troops withdraw. Can Afghans stop them?

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Zalmay Khalilzad:

Well, I mean, the Taliban were not going to negotiate with the government before reaching an agreement with the United States.

It would have been better, of course, if they had negotiated with the government. But 18, 19 years had passed, and that did not happen. So our agreement, in fact, with the Taliban opened the door for historic inter-Afghan negotiations, meaning the Talibs and the government sitting across the table, for the first time in 40 years of war in Afghanistan that that happened.

Besides, of course, the Talibs agreed, in terms of U.S. interests, not to attack us after we had signed the agreement, but gave us the right to come to the defense of the Afghan forces, which was extraordinary that they would have agreed to that, but they did.

And as our forces have withdrawn, they haven’t, so far, thank goodness, attacked those forces. But both sides need to be realistic. They need to find a solution that works for Afghanistan. There’s great pessimism that maybe Afghans would not come to an agreement. But I hope that’s not the case ,because that would be a tragedy if they don’t come to an agreement, and the long war becomes even longer, and Afghanistan’s gains that have been made, the opportunities that have been provided by the United States and our allies would be put at risk.