OPINION: This article contains commentary which reflects the author's opinion
Joe Biden has a plan for how to reform the government of Afghanistan but, unfortunately for him, he just got humiliated by the Afghan president.
Biden wanted to get rid of the agreement reached by the Afghan government for President Donald Trump on a troop withdrawal which would continue to the ongoing war in Afghanistan, and have a power-sharing deal with the Taliban.
But current Afghanistan President Ashraf Ghani is not interested in that arrangement, Reuters reported.
Afghan President Ashraf Ghani will propose a new presidential election within six months, under a peace plan he will put forward as a counter-offer to a U.S. proposal that he rejects, two senior government officials told Reuters.
Ghani will unveil his proposal at an international gathering in Turkey next month, signaling his refusal to accept Washington’s plan for his elected government to be replaced by an interim administration, the officials said.
Washington, which agreed last year to withdraw its troops from Afghanistan by May 1 after nearly two decades, is pressing for a peace deal to end the war between the government and the Taliban. Talks between the Afghan sides in Qatar have stalled.
U.S. Special Envoy Zalmay Khalilzad has been circulating a proposal that would replace the Kabul government with an interim administration. But Ghani has voiced vehement opposition to any solution that requires his government to step aside for unelected successors.
“The counterproposal which we are going to present at the Istanbul meeting would be to call for early presidential elections if the Taliban agree on a ceasefire,” a top government official said to Reuters on condition of anonymity.
Another Afghan government official said, “The president would never agree to step aside and any future government should be formed through the democratic process, not a political deal.”
And a third Afghan government official said that Ghani’s plan would include the possibility of early elections, but he did not specify a date that those elections would take place.
Biden and The White House are looking for support from leaders in the region to back the power-sharing plan, but the regional leaders believe that it would be near impossible to have that agreement if Biden does not have Ghani’s support for it.
The United States envoy Zalmay Khalilzad, Secretary of State Antony Blinken sent the proposal to Ghani at the start of March along with a warning that pulling troops as possible.
“I am making this clear to you so that you understand the urgency of my tone,” Blinken said in the letter to Ghani, The Washington Post reported.
Biden administration officials refused to confirm or deny the specifics of the interim plan or the Blinken letter. “As a general matter, we do not comment on alleged correspondence with foreign leaders,” a State Department spokesperson said.
The letter and the eight-page plan for an interim government were published Sunday by Afghanistan’s Tolo News.
A senior administration official, speaking on the condition of anonymity about the sensitive diplomacy, declined to speak “to particular documents people have been discussing in the context of diplomatic conversations that should remain private.”
The official said “it’s important for both sides to understand the urgency of the situation, both the Afghan government and the Taliban,” he said. “We inherited a diplomatic process and an agreement” and are trying “to resolve these outstanding issues.
“Whether or not that’s possible is something that’s still being determined,” he said.
But it no looks like it has been determined by Ghani and his team and the answer, to the embarrassment of Biden, is a no.
This would be a major blow to Biden’s Afghan policy, his Middle East policy, and to his foreign policy in its entirety.