Deep conflict between intel community’s views on Afghan peace and Khalilzad’s optimism: US senator

There is deep conflict between the US intelligence community’s views on the prospects for Afghan peace and Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad’s optimism, a senior US senator has said on Wednesday.

Khalilzad has held six rounds of peace talks with the Taliban and on Wednesday he briefed US lawmakers over the issue.

The envoy has claimed progress on the issues of troop withdrawal and Taliban assurances of preventing Afghanistan from being used by terrorist groups.

“I — I think like everyone else — want to bring our troops home as soon as we can, but how we ultimately achieve that is critically important,” said Democratic Senator Bob Menendez, a senior member of the US Senate Foreign Relations Committee, as quoted by the Associated Press.

Wednesday’s briefing was the second high-level Afghanistan briefing this week, after intelligence officials on Monday gave lawmakers their assessment, also behind closed doors.

Menedez, who attended both briefings, remarked on the “deep conflict between the intelligence community’s views on this question (of the prospects for peace) and Ambassador Khalilzad’s optimism.”

Khalilzad’s apperane before US Congress was his first after taking over the role in September last year. It came after months of requests from lawmakers for a briefing.

Republican Jim Risch, chairman of the US Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said that he believes Khalilzad is making progress. However, he added, “the issue always is how much progress, and can you get to the finish line?”

“Would you want it quicker? Yes. Would you want to get there sooner? Yes. But I’m not here to criticize,” Risch said. “It’s a difficult situation, no question about it.”

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