Tag Archives: Taliban

Taliban says ‘way too early’ to speak of resuming talks with US after Trump’s statement

The Taliban said on Friday it was “way too early” to speak of resuming direct talks with Washington. The statement came a day after US President Donald Trump said during a surprise visit to Afghanistan that the US was again meeting with the militants.

“It is way too early to talk about the resumption of talks for now. We will give our official reaction later,” the group’s official spokesperson, Zabihullah Mujahid, told AFP in a WhatsApp message.

However, Mujahid was quoted by Reuters on Friday as saying that the insurgent group was “ready to restart the talks,” which collapsed in September after Trump called them off. “Our stance is still the same. If peace talks start, they will be resumed from the stage where they’d stopped,” Mujahid said, according to the report.

It added that Taliban leaders say the group has been holding meetings with senior US officials in Doha, Qatar, since last weekend and formal peace talks could soon be resumed.


Khalilzad in Islamabad, seeks revival of Taliban talks

ISLAMABAD: US Special Envoy for Afghan Reconciliation Amb Zalmay Khalilzad arrived on Tuesday for discussions with Pakistani civil and military leadership on reviving peace talks with Afghan Taliban.

The trip follows voting in the Afghan presidential elections held on Sept 28 that were marred by low turnout and sporadic violence.

Pakistan had, while welcoming the voting in presidential elections, hoped that the new government will enjoy the full mandate to take the stalled peace process forward.

“This is important for ending the 18-year old conflict through an inclusive, Afghan-led and Afghan-owned negotiated political settlement,” the Foreign Office said vowing to continue to facilitate the new Afghan government in reaching a political settlement of the long-running conflict.

US and Taliban were close to a deal last month when Trump called off a meeting with representatives of insurgent group and Afghan president

Meanwhile, diplomatic sources in the US said that Pakistan was trying to bring Taliban leader Mullah Baradar to Islamabad from Doha on Wednesday (today) for a possible meeting with Mr Khalilzad.

It may take up to three weeks for the counting of the votes in Afghan presidential polls to complete. There are, however, early indications that the process may run into a political row among leading contenders similar to the one witnessed in 2014. Top contenders have already begun making rival claims of victory in polls.

The US and Taliban were close to a deal at the start of last month when President Donald Trump suddenly called off a meeting with representatives of the insurgent group and Afghan President Ashraf Ghani at Camp David and ended the negotiating process that Amb Khalilzad had been running for a year over a Taliban attack in Kabul that left 12 people, including a US soldier, dead.

Amb Khalilzad later reportedly told Congress members in a classified briefing that the peace deal with the Taliban was dead.

He had also met Prime Minister Imran Khan during his recent visit to New York. He, on that occasion, gave Mr Khan an overview of his yearlong engagement with the Taliban before it went off the rails.


Taliban Envoys Visit Iran, Russia Following Collapse Of U.S. Talks

A four-member Taliban delegation has traveled to Tehran for talks with high-ranking Iranian officials — the second such trip by militants to a foreign country just days after U.S. President Donald Trump announced that peace talks with the United States have collapsed.

Suhail Shaheen, a spokesman for the Taliban political bureau in Qatar, tweeted on September 17 that the Taliban delegation led by Abdul Salam Hanafi, deputy head of political office, visited Iran and met high-ranking officials of the Iranian Foreign Ministry the previous day.

Shaeen did not disclose the identities of the delegation’s members.

The two sides discussed the peace process, the latest developments, and economic cooperation between Afghanistan and Iran, Shaeen said.

On September 13, Shaeen said a Taliban delegation had met with Russia’s special envoy for Afghanistan, Zamir Kabulov in Moscow.

RFE/RL has independently confirmed that the Taliban delegation was in Moscow on September 13.

Shaheen was quoted by the Russian news agency TASS as saying that the Taliban’s talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin’s special envoy had focused on “the recent developments regarding the peace process in Afghanistan.”

The Afghan Islamic Press (AIP) reported that the Taliban delegation in Moscow was headed by Sher Muhammad Abbas Stanikzai, the head of the Taliban’s negotiation team in Qatar.

On September 13, Shaeen said a Taliban delegation had met with Russia’s special envoy for Afghanistan, Zamir Kabulov in Moscow.

RFE/RL has independently confirmed that the Taliban delegation was in Moscow on September 13.

Shaheen was quoted by the Russian news agency TASS as saying that the Taliban’s talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin’s special envoy had focused on “the recent developments regarding the peace process in Afghanistan.”

The Afghan Islamic Press (AIP) reported that the Taliban delegation in Moscow was headed by Sher Muhammad Abbas Stanikzai, the head of the Taliban’s negotiation team in Qatar.

It said the delegation also included Shaheen and Qari Din Muhammad Hanif.

Stanikzai told the Kremlin-funded RT network in an interview aired on September 13 that the Taliban wanted to continue talks with Washington, but if no agreement is reached the militants are ready to fight “for 100 years.”

AIP reported that the Taliban delegation was considering a possible trip to China after it concludes its visit in Moscow, but it said a final decision on going to China had not been reached by the Taliban delegates.

Moscow has hosted two previous rounds of talks in 2019 between Taliban negotiators and prominent Afghan figures.

Trump declared on September 9 that peace talks with U.S. special envoy Zalmay Khalilzad were “dead.”

Earlier, Trump canceled a secret meeting with Taliban negotiators that had been scheduled at the Camp David presidential retreat in Maryland.

In Washington, Khalilzad has been called to testify at a U.S. congressional hearing on September 19 about the collapse of the talks with U.S. officials.


Ghani spokesman: Taliban leaders receive orders from Qatar to kill Afghans

Speaking at a news conference in Kabul on Sunday, Sadiq Sediqi, a spokesman for President of Afghanistan Ashraf Ghani, that the Afghan people would never accept an incomplete peace deal with the Taliban that results in their death.

Sediqi said that the Taliban leaders staying in Qatar for peace talks were “having (a) honeymoon in Doha,” adding that the “Taliban leaders receive orders from Qatar to kill Afghans.”

Negotiations in Qatar are incomplete, and the Afghani government has shared its concerns with the US about the “flawed process,” Sediqi said.

Ghani’s spokesperson said that US President Donald Trump’s decision on Saturday to cancel peace talks with Afghanistan’s Taliban leaders proved that the government’s concerns were acknowledged. Trump cancelled the talks after the insurgent group said it was behind an attack in Kabul that killed an American soldier and 11 other people.

“The peace talks provided an opportunity to the Taliban to embrace political life,” Sediq Sediqqi told reporters in Kabul.

“We (the Afghan government) expected an outcome leading to a ceasefire and holding direct talks with the Taliban but we did not see any real effort from their (Taliban) end,” he said.

Ghani’s office said in a statement it was committed to working together with the United States and allies for a “dignified and long-lasting peace.” He added that the country will be holding the presidential election this month.

Ghani is seeking a second tenure in the elections scheduled for September 28, but the Taliban have called for the elections to be cancelled as a precondition to signing a peace accord with the US.

The statement said that lasting peace required “a strong, legitimate and a legal government through the upcoming elections to take the ongoing peace process forward.”


German police suspend training in Kabul after attack

German police have suspended the training of Afghan officers in Kabul in the wake of last week’s deadly attacks by the Taliban, it was confirmed on Sunday.

At least 16 people were killed and more than 100 injured last Monday in a bomb attack on Kabul’s Green Village, a large fortified compound that houses aid agencies and international organizations.

The 22 members of the German Police Project Team (GPPT), in Kabul to train Afghan officers, were in the compound at the time and survived the attack, but their accommodation and offices are “no longer habitable,” a spokesman said.

As a result, German police have suspended the training, with half of the team flown out of Afghanistan while the rest are housed in Kabul’s German Embassy.

“The other half of the members of the… GPPT are flying out for the time being for a lack of accommodation,” an interior ministry spokesman said in a statement from Berlin.

“The question of the continued ability to work is currently being clarified,” the spokesman said.

He said “The continuation of the successful cooperation with the Afghan security authorities also depends on this.”

After another deadly bomb attack killed 12 more in Kabul last Thursday, US President Donald Trump announced that he had called off a secret summit with the Taliban, following a year-long diplomatic push to exit America’s longest war.


Pompeo Says US Forces Won’t Leave Afghanistan Without Peace Deal

The Trump administration declined on Sunday to rule out a withdrawal of American troops without a peace accord, which was scrapped after a terror attack resulting in the death of an American soldier in Kabul.

In an interview on Sunday, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said that the Taliban had “tried to gain negotiating advantage by conducting terror attacks inside the country.” 

“We’re going to walk away from a deal if others try to use violence to achieve better ends in a negotiation,’’ he added.

Pompeo and other administration officials left open the door to a resumption of negotiations, and so did the Taliban. But any new talks may not happen for several months, as the sides feel mutual distrust, Afghan officials said, cited by the New York Times.

Despite criticism from several fellow Republicans, including national security adviser John R. Bolton, Trump has promised to reduce the number of American forces in Afghanistan, saying two weeks ago that their numbers would come down to 8,600 from the current level of about 14,000 –  far below the 100,000 troops that were based there during the height of the war.

Pompeo laid out two conditions for a withdrawal on Sunday: that violence be reduced and that another terrorist attack on the United States from Afghanistan never be permitted.

“We’re not going to withdraw our forces without making sure we achieve President Trump’s twin objectives,” he said on NBC’s “Meet the Press.”

In an interview on Thursday at the Council on Foreign Relations in Washington, the departing chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Joseph Dunford, argued that it had been clear for years that the only lasting peace would come from some kind of political process between the Taliban and the Afghan government.

He said that his idea of a successful negotiation would be one that “reduces the level of violence” and sets up an intra-Afghan dialogue.

At the core of the tentative agreement between the United States and the Taliban were assurances from the group that it would not support international terrorist groups, and that Afghan soil would not be used for attacks against the West.

“We had the Taliban’s commitment to do that,” Pompeo said on Fox News on Sunday. “We had their commitment to break from Al Qaeda, publicly. And they would obviously have to deliver on that commitment. So we’ve made real progress, but in the end the Taliban overreached.”

Asked by Margaret Brennan on CBS’s “Face the Nation” if 14,000 American troops in Afghanistan was “where it stays for the foreseeable future,” Pompeo said that “ultimately, it’s the president’s decision.”

Military and intelligence officials cited by the New York Times said that the American forces are chiefly there to provide intelligence to the Afghans. General Dunford said Thursday that the planned reduction to 8,600 troops was based on a Pentagon estimate of how many it would take to assure that terrorist groups were not exploiting the power vacuum in the country.


No peace talk would work with continued Taliban violence: Afghan gov’t

 No peace talks in Afghanistan would yield desired result in the absence of government delegation, said a statement of presidential palace on Sunday.

“The obstacle for achieving peace in Afghanistan is the continued Taliban-led war and violence,” said the statement.

“The real peace won’t return to Afghanistan unless and until the Taliban halts Afghan killing, accepts ceasefire and initiate direct talks with Afghan government,” the statement added.

The statement came after the U.S. President Donald Trump called off the peace talks with the Taliban outfit in the wake of a suicide car bomb claimed by the armed group on Thursday in Kabul, which left 12 people dead, including one American soldier, and 42 Afghan civilians injured.


Taliban kidnap six Afghan journalists

Taliban kidnapped six Afghan journalists working for private and government media organizations in eastern Paktia province, government officials and Taliban said on Saturday.

The reporters, working for radio and TV news companies that broadcast news in the Pashto and Dari languages, were abducted while travelling together from neighboring Paktika province to Paktia to attend a media workshop on Friday.

“We are trying to negotiate their release with the Taliban,” said Abdullah Hasrat, a spokesman for Paktia’s governor.

A Taliban spokesman confirmed the abduction of six journalists by their fighters but said they will be released soon.

“Yes, our mujahideens (fighters) have mistakenly kidnapped them,” said Zabihullah Mujahid, a spokesman for the hardline insurgent group.

“Right now mobile services are not working, but they will be released as soon as we establish contact with the local commander,” he said.

Afghanistan was the deadliest country in the world to be a journalist in 2018, with 13 deaths according to the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ).

The International Federation of Journalists said 16 journalists were killed last year.

In June, the Taliban issued a threat to Afghan media, saying journalists will be targeted unless news outlets stop broadcasting what they describe as government propaganda against the insurgents.

Media organizations were given one week to stop transmitting “anti-Taliban advertisements” by the group’s military commission, a warning that was denounced by the Afghan government and western diplomats.

In 2016, a Taliban suicide bomber rammed his car into a bus carrying employees of Tolo TV, the country’s largest private broadcaster, killing seven journalists.

The Taliban said it killed the employees because Tolo was producing propaganda that supported the occupation of Afghanistan by the US and its allies in their war against the insurgents.


Pentagon chief says US working towards ‘good deal’ with Taliban

US Defense Secretary Mark Esper said on Saturday that while it was seeking a political agreement with the Taliban, Washington would not accept just any deal after a wave of violence cast a shadow over its talks with the insurgent group.

Afghan leaders including President Ashraf Ghani have been increasingly critical of the apparent draft deal reached between US special envoy Zalmay Khalilzad and Taliban representatives in Doha this week as the violence has escalated.

“The US’ view is that the best way forward is a political agreement and that (is what) we’re working diligently on right now, that doesn’t mean we’ll take any deal,” Esper said during a press conference in Paris with his French counterpart.

“We will make sure we have a good deal, a good enough deal that guarantees at least the security of our countries going forward and a brighter path ahead for the Afghan people.”

Under the draft accord with the Taliban, thousands of US troops would be withdrawn over the coming months in exchange for guarantees that Afghanistan would not be used as a base for militant attacks on the US and its allies.

However, according to the agreement, a full peace agreement to end more than 18 years of war would depend on subsequent “intra Afghan” talks. The Taliban have rejected calls for a ceasefire and instead stepped up operations across the country.

On Friday US envoy Khalilzad was back in the Qatari capital Doha, along with General Scott Miller, the top US commander in Afghanistan, to continue talks with the Taliban, who said the meeting had gone well.

Afghanistan’s Tolo TV reported that the Afghan president had been due to visit Washington for talks with US President Donald Trump on Monday only for his trip to be cancelled at the last minute.

The US ended its combat role in 2014, although 20,000 US and NATO forces remain. They still train and support Afghan troops fighting the Taliban who fear being left vulnerable if the US leaves.


Afghanistan juggles presidential polls, peace talks

Kabul has expressed growing anxiety over the proposed agreement between the U.S. and Taliban as Afghanistan juggles between key presidential elections and the fragile yet rejuvenated peace process.

As Afghan President Ashraf Ghani keeps his cards to the chest, officials around him have switched their reactions from initial cautious skepticism to grim concerns following top U.S. peace negotiator Zalmay Khalilzad’s conclusion of marathon negotiations with the insurgents in Doha, Qatar.

Over the weekend, Khalilzad, U.S. special representative for Afghanistan reconciliation, said the U.S. and the Taliban had clinched an agreement “in principle” pending approval from U.S. President Donald Trump. In a televised interview with the local Tolo News, he said the deal would see an initial withdrawal of 5,000 American troops within 135 days.

Sediq Sediqqi, spokesman for the Afghan president, told Anadolu Agency that peace remains a top priority for the government and the guiding principles for it have been set by thousands of public representatives at the ‘Loya Jirga’ (traditional gathering of local elders) earlier this year.

“Just as the former U.S. officials and senators have expressed concerns about the implications of this agreement (between the U.S and Taliban), the Afghan government is also concerned, and therefore, we want clarity on this document to thoroughly analyze its dangers and consequences,” he said.

Sediqqi was referring to the nine former U.S. ambassadors and envoys who recently wrote in a commentary on the Atlantic Council think tank website that the Trump administration needed to avoid a hasty exit to ensure Daesh and other extremists are not given more space to operate and to avoid undermining the Afghan people’s chance to live under a democratic government.

“A major troop withdrawal must be contingent on a final peace,” the former diplomats wrote. “The initial U.S. drawdown should not go so far or so fast that the Taliban believe that they can achieve military victory.”

Rumors rife

Not much is made public about the nitty-gritty of the proposed deal. Rumors making rounds on social media suggest an interim administration for 18 months has been proposed to oversee an overhaul of the constitution, the inclusion of the Taliban in the power structure, intra-Afghan talks and gradual ceasefire.

In a more candid reaction, Waheed Omar, director general at the Office of Public and Strategic Affairs, said in a series of tweets that some of the details of the U.S.-Taliban agreement need “serious debate and revision”. Earlier on Monday, he said that Khalilzad has shown a copy of the draft framework to Ghani but not handed it over. The Afghan government led by Ghani sees the postponement of the Sept. 28 presidential elections as rolling back of the state-building process and surrendering to the insurgents.

Well-placed sources told Anadolu Agency Khalilzad has held multiple rounds of talks with Ghani since Sunday, and has pushed for the establishment of a delegation for intra-Afghan dialogue with Taliban. The sticking point remains whether this proposed delegation should represent and defend the government or remain neutral.

Ghani’s power-sharing chief executive and rival presidential candidate, Abdullah Abdullah told an election rally on Wednesday that for him the peace process has priority even over the elections.

Political commentator Mohammad Hussein argued that the peace process has become the single dominant issue in the ongoing election campaign among all 16 candidates. “Common people are just puzzled because the politicians are deeply divided [over the proposed peace agreement]. In my personal views, this deal in its current form has a lot for the Taliban to cheer about and the Afghan government and people to worry about,” he said.

Parallel to all the political wrangling on all sides, the country has witnessed a mammoth surge in violence particularly in the northern provinces claiming scores of lives on all sides.

The UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan has tracked nearly 100,000 civilian casualties in the country since the agency began keeping count in 2009, with 1,500 recorded in July of this year alone. It has warned the spasm of violence could jeopardize months of progress made on the peace deal.