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Afghan Govt Expecting Direct Talks With Taliban in Two Weeks

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(Last Updated On: June 30, 2019)

The Taliban and Afghan government representatives are expected to hold direct talks in less than two weeks in Germany, an Afghan official said on Sunday.

Sibghatullah Ahmadi, Spokesman of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs said that the seventh round of talks between the U.S. and Taliban negotiators is crucial.

Ahmadi said that Afghanistan is very close to peace.

This comes as U.S. and Taliban representatives are negotiating behind closed doors since Saturday and the group has always rejected to hold talks with President Ashraf Ghani’s government.

Sources close to the Taliban said that the negotiations are ongoing over the withdrawal of foreign forces from Afghanistan and a Taliban guarantee that Afghanistan will not be used by terrorists against the U.S. and its Allies.

“I think the two sides are discussing the previous agenda. Shir Mohammad Abbas Stanekzai is leading the Taliban team and the negotiation is expected to have a positive result,” said Sayed Akbar Agha, a former Taliban official.

However, the U.S. negotiating team is expected to focus on a ceasefire and the launch of an intra-Afghan dialogue.

At the same time, the head of the UN mission in Afghanistan emphasizes that the upcoming presidential elections and peace process are top priorities for the United Nations.

“Let me be clear: Neither process should be harmed or held back by the other; both processes must move forward with the full force and commitment of all stakeholders,” Tadamichi Yamamoto, the head of the UN mission said in a statement on Sunday.

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Khalilzad pointed out that “war is expensive.”

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(Last Updated On: May 11, 2021)

He said this applied to both sides – to the Afghan security forces and to the Taliban. He also stated that significant numbers “are dying on all sides”.

But he noted that the Taliban have choices – choices that affect their futures.

“One future is international legitimacy, assistance, getting off the sanctions’ blacklist, and prisoners released. But that means negotiations and agreeing to a realistic political settlement.” Khalilzad said.

“The alternative is war. Even if they make continued gains, they’re not looking at an easy victory. And ongoing aggression on their part will mean continued isolation, not being accepted as a legitimate partner, not getting off the blacklist, no prisoners released, and the continued opposition from the international community working to prevent a military takeover.

“So this is a time for the Taliban to decide which path they want to take. And we are preparing ourselves, with our friends and allies, for both options. That’s the message that we have delivered to the Taliban,” he said.

Khalilzad said according to the Taliban, they “are working on their plan for a political settlement.”

On the Afghan Republic’s plan, Khalilzad said there had been 30 to start off with but this was now down to two.

“The negotiations – including the meeting in Turkey with facilitators – can be used to see how these plans might fit together for the future of Afghanistan. We strongly hope the UN, Turkey and Qatar can help through active facilitation.

“The Afghan security forces are a national institution worthy of support and we will keep supporting them,” he said.

But Khalilzad said if the Taliban fail to pursue a political settlement and pursue the line of war, he believes the Afghan security forces will resist and “we will support them”.

He warned however that Afghanistan’s recent history shows that efforts by any group to impose their will on the people by force leads to a “long war.”

Once again he reassured Afghanistan that neither the US nor the rest of the international community would abandon Afghanistan.

“We will have – when the withdrawal is completed – a new chapter in our partnership. Afghanistan is going to be at the very top of the recipients of U.S. assistance, foreign assistance which includes supporting the Afghan security forces, development assistance and humanitarian assistance. And our allies say the same,” he said.

Khalilzad also stated that the US is preparing for all potential outcomes, stating “the violence is bad”. He said their goal is to help end the conflict through a peace agreement.

“In a best-case scenario, there will be national reconciliation and everyone’s energies will focus on rebuilding lives and obtaining the peace dividend. But yes, things could get worse if there is no realistic agreement and the war continues – or, God forbid, that it escalates, and past mistakes are repeated. We, for our part, will do all that we can, short of getting involved again in a war, to prevent things from devolving.

“All Afghans have been affected by this war. Afghans living in Taliban areas have not been spared. They have been deprived of a lot. They deserve a better chance, as well as those who have benefited from the gains of the last 20 years. We’re preparing for all potential alternatives and we are very much committed to humanitarian support as well,” he said.

Khalilzad went on to say the Afghan security forces are a national institution worthy of support, which the US will continue doing. He also said Washington will maintain a robust embassy and will monitor the situation closely.

Asked about “what went wrong” with Afghanistan, Khalilzad stated that while the Republic has delivered on many fronts, there have also been challenges.
He said corruption has been a key problem and that the electoral process has been problematic at times.

“Over the long history of this war, there have also been mistakes made in executing the military strategy. The issue of sanctuaries for the opposition was not dealt with in a timely fashion,” he said.

On Pakistan, Khalilzad said: “We believe that Pakistan has a legitimate interest in Afghanistan and the Afghans should respect those legitimate interests. The legitimate interest is that Afghanistan’s soil should not be used by those hostile to Pakistan against Pakistan.”

He also stated that Pakistan soil should not be used by forces hostile to Afghanistan, against Afghanistan. “And we have been working hard, along with the United Kingdom, for the two countries to work on improving security cooperation and perhaps to reach a security agreement with each other. That’s an important part of our peace efforts,” he said.

Khalilzad said that if this peace effort does not succeed, and if there is no agreement between Pakistan and Afghanistan, Pakistan will suffer.

“Pakistan will be blamed because so much of the Taliban’s leadership lives in Pakistan. A failed peace also means missed opportunities for both countries. Leaders in Pakistan and Afghanistan have a common interest in economic connectivity and trade and development. And we are working hard with both, and with Central Asia, for these things. We believe peace in Afghanistan empowers that and makes that possible.”

Khalilzad went on to say that ultimately, the responsibility of whether peace is possible, lies with the leaders of the Afghan Republic and the Taliban.

“The Afghan leaders say they have learned from the past. But we will see. Will they put their country first, will they put their people first or will they pursue some separate agenda? Will they put the future of the current generation, our future generations first? Time will tell whether they will make the right choice or repeat past mistakes. And the Taliban have an important historic choice to make,” he said.

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Logar police district chief killed in shooting

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(Last Updated On: May 10, 2021)

An Afghan security official was killed in an attack by unknown armed men in eastern Logar province on Monday, sources said.

Hasibullah Stanekzai, Head of the Provincial Council told Ariana News that Shahpor Ahmadzai, police chief for PD1 of Logar, was gunned down by unknown armed men in the provincial capital Pul-e-Alam city.

The incident took place at Shahidan square in the city on Monday evening.

Ahmadzai, who was a former spokesman for Logar police, died in hospital from gunshot wounds sustained in the attack, Stanekzai said.

So far, no group or individual has claimed responsibility for the attack.

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Amnesty International say ‘brutal crimes’ highlight govt failures

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(Last Updated On: May 10, 2021)

Responding to the deadly bombing of Sayed-ul-Shuhada High School in Kabul on Saturday afternoon and the Zabul bus bombing on Sunday night, Amnesty International said Monday these two incidents must serve as a wake up call to the world.

Samira Hamidi, Amnesty International’s South Asia Campaigner, said: “The appalling scenes in West Kabul and Zabul Province must serve as a wake-up call to the world.

Officials confirmed Monday that 85 people were killed in the school bombing on Saturday and another 11 were killed in a IED explosion in Zabul on Saturday night.

“These unspeakable crimes brutally highlight the failure of authorities to protect civilians, particularly girls and minority groups. People are being slaughtered on a weekly basis and the bloodshed shows no sign of letting up,” Hamidi said.

“Now is not the time for the international community to turn its back on Afghanistan,” she said.

“Targeting civilians, especially children and schools, is a war crime and violation of international humanitarian law. All parties to the peace negotiations must focus their utmost efforts on protecting civilians, upholding human rights for all, and ending impunity for these crimes.”

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