WASHINGTON/KABUL (Reuters) – Washington’s relationship with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani appears increasingly at risk of permanent damage, the consequence of a US policy shift that has so far excluded his government from talks with the Taliban and of his own determination to retain power and manage peace efforts himself.
The feud threatens to undermine the already narrow chances for a peace accord that President Donald Trump hopes would end America’s longest war.
Current and former US officials tell Reuters they believe Mr Ghani is positioning himself to perhaps be a spoiler in still-fragile negotiations, angry that the Afghan government has been kept out of talks and worried about the implications for his presidency.
But from Mr Ghani’s perspective, the negotiations themselves, led by US special envoy Zalmay Khalilzad, feel like a personal betrayal and a capitulation by the United States that could return the Taliban to power, Afghan officials say.
The growing rift between Kabul and Washington over the peace negotiations erupted in public view on March 14 when Mr Ghani’s national security adviser, Hamdullah Mohib, slammed Mr Khalilzad and accused the Afghan-born veteran US diplomat of perhaps trying to steal the Afghan presidency for himself.