Four issues key to improving US-Afghan ties: Ex-envoy

Washington, May 12 : Former U. S. Ambassador to Afghanistan, Zalmay Khalilzad, has said restoring fractured ties between the United States and Afghanistan is dependent on four big issues.

In an article for the Washington Post, Khalilzad said that the first step would be to restore confidence, as there is a substantial trust deficit between Washington and Kabul.

It is well known that the Obama administration has serious doubts about Karzai''s reliability and effectiveness as a partner.

Therefore, according to Khalilzad, President Obama would have to as a second step not only facilitate Karzai with a “red carpet” welcome, but also produce credible agreement on specific issues when they meet at the White House today.

“It would be good for both sides to begin negotiating a new framework for bilateral relations, perhaps by updating the five-year-old Strategic Partnership Agreement,” the former envoy opines.

“This discussion needs to be pragmatic and realistic, not driven by pride or slogans. Our administration needs to show a willingness to review and improve the U. S. government contracting process, which is undeniably part of the problem. This could prove to be an area of constructive collaboration, given mutual goodwill,” he adds.

The third issue that could dominate talks is how Karzai plans to deal with the Taliban.

According to Khalilzad, Washington still thinks Karzai''s goals and strategy on this sensitive matter are unclear.

“A mutual understanding of an acceptable end state on how to deal with the Taliban is critical, as are the steps that would be necessary to get there,” he says.

Coordinating regional strategy would be the fourth and final issue that the leaderships of these two countries would have to discuss.

Khalilzad said that success in Afghanistan depends heavily on relations among key regional players, several of whom are being unhelpful.

“For example, Iran would like to see the United States abandon Afghanistan. Pakistan would prefer that Washington "subcontract" Afghanistan to it. Both are telling Karzai that the United States will abandon Afghanistan. These points must be clarified during his visit,” he says.

According to another report appearing in the Politico, State Department AFPAK hands believe their efforts to give a positive tone Karzai’s visit has been successful.

The team of Special Representative to Afghanistan and Pakistan Richard “Holbrooke and State people were very happy” with how it went at State Tuesday, one Afghan expert who dropped by the meetings told POLITICO.

“They did their job,” the Afghan expert judged of the State Department on-message reception for Karzai, adding: “it’s up to the White House not to mess it up tomorrow (Wednesday).”

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton hosted Afghan President Hamid Karzai and a dozen accompanying cabinet ministers at a dinner at Blair House Monday night and for all day ministerial meetings Tuesday, including at least three Clinton-Karzai joint public appearances at which Clinton and Karzai extolled the friendship between their countries.

Karzai also visited wounded U. S. soldiers at Walter Reed hospital Tuesday, and will visit Arlington National Cemetery on Thursday, demonstrating the investment in American lives the United States is making in trying to stabilize Afghanistan – a sacrifice Karzai said he recognized and appreciated.

According to Politico, Karzai heads to the White House Wednesday for meetings with President Barack Obama, a joint news conference, and lunch with Obama.

Vice President Joseph Biden is due to host Karzai for a dinner Wednesday night, and Senator John Kerry, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, has invited Karzai to lunch on Thursday.

The Obama administration has decided that Karzai is the elected president and they have to work with him, an Afghan expert said. (ANI)