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Attack on AGO employees attempt to disrupt peace process: Khalilzad

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(Last Updated On: June 23, 2020)

Zalmay Khalilzad, the US Special Representative for Afghanistan Reconciliation condemned yesterday’s attack on Attorney General Office’s employees who were working “to facilitate prisoner releases.”

 “This attack, carried out by enemies of peace, took the lives of five civilians. We offer our condolences,” Khalilzad said in a tweet.

Five employees of AGO were assassinated on Monday while they were on their way to Bagram prisoner. The US Peace Envoy insisted that the incident should be thoroughly investigated.

“We call for a full investigation to find the perpetrators and bring them to justice,” said Khalilzad adding that the attack meant to disrupt the Afghan peace process.

“This attack underscores what we all know: Spoilers (both domestic and foreign) are trying to disrupt and delay,” Khalilzad underscored.

So far, no group or individual has claimed responsibility for the attack. The Taliban has also denied its involvement in the attack.

“Their (Taliban) denial of these events cannot absolve the group. There have been many other similar attacks on the country’s judges that were done by the Taliban, and the group should clarify this. Violence will have a negative effect on the peace process,” said the presidential spokesman Sediq Sediqqi.

The Taliban said it is also investigating the case, adding that the laterals should be aware of the conspiracies of countless peace enemies.

“The assassination of prosecutors, in addition to contradicting international human rights documents, could damage the peace process in the current context,” said Naeem Nazari, a member of the Independent Human Rights Commission.

Meanwhile, some experts familiar with the Afghan peace process beliefs that targeted and complex assassinations have been increased following advances in the process.

“Until the Intra-Afghan talks begin, the war will be fiery and the people will be sacrificed. At the first meeting of the talks, a permanent ceasefire will be decided,” said Waliullah Shahin, a peace activist.

Khalilzad noted that the Afghan government and the Taliban should not be deterred, and push forward to take the steps necessary to reach intra-Afghan negotiations, “where a comprehensive ceasefire and a political settlement can be negotiated as quickly as possible. This is what the Afghan people want and we stand with them.”

Meanwhile, President Ghani in a statement condemned the attack, calling it a “terrorist attack” and a “crime against humanity and Islamic values.”

“We expect that the coordination of the time and place of the talks will be finalized at the same time as the end of the prisoner exchange process and the reduction of violence,” said Najia Anwari, a spokeswoman for the government’s Ministry of Peace.

Earlier, a UN report showed that some senior Taliban members opposed to the peace process, in collusion with other groups, had formed a group to promote peace under the name of the Islamic State Party.

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Khalilzad ‘would welcome’ talks with Iran to help end conflict

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(Last Updated On: September 24, 2020)

US peace envoy Zalmay Khalilzad said Thursday Washington had offered to meet with Iran in a bid to garner their assistance to end the war in Afghanistan. 

Speaking at a virtual discussion by the US Institute of Peace, Khalilzad said he would welcome talks with Afghanistan’s neighbor but said Tehran wanted to keep the US “entangled” in the conflict. 

“Iran would like to keep us entangled in a conflict without winning or losing but paying a high price in Afghanistan until there is an agreement between the US and Iran,” Khalilzad said.

“But we have offered to meet with Iranians on this issue, that they should join various forums where we are there and they are there, to discuss the future of Afghanistan,” he said.

However, Khalilzad warned that the US would target any Iran-backed groups that took “action against” America and that Washington is monitoring them closely. 

Khalilzad also said that there was “no viable path” to a military victory in Afghanistan.

But Khalilzad noted that plans to downsize the number of US troops in Afghanistan, before a complete withdrawal, was all conditional.

Iran has denounced the agreement negotiated by Khalilzad between the US and the Taliban, which envisions a US troops withdrawal by April next year. Iran has accused Washington of legitimizing the Taliban.

 

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Security chiefs discuss surging levels of violence in the country

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(Last Updated On: September 24, 2020)

Security leaders from the Ministries of Defense and Interior and Resolute Support Mission met on Wednesday in Kandahar to discuss the security situation across Afghanistan. 

Resolute Support Commander, General Scott Miller stated Thursday that the level of violence in the country at the moment was too high. 

“Taliban violence has to slow down – it has to stop. What it is driving is an increase in violence across the country,” he said. 

As he stated the world is watching Afghanistan at the moment – specifically due to current peace negotiations between the Afghan government team and the Taliban. 

“We have an opportunity for peace, which is what the people of Afghanistan are looking for,” Miller said. 

He stated that during the visit to Kandahar, the officials all agreed on the need for close cooperation between all security entities in the country. 

“..we stressed and talked about the need for work amongst the security pillars, cooperation amongst the security pillars. The police and the army are very important to the people of Afghanistan,” he said. 

“But it’s the cooperation between the different security forces that are making a difference here in Kandahar. It has to – it has to be better. And then just lastly, for the people of Afghanistan, as I watch the fighting on a daily and nightly basis, I ask the people of Afghanistan, and [Kandahar’s] governor you as well, is make sure that we say ‘thank you’ and remain very proud of the security forces who are sacrificing every single day.”

The visit comes amid rising concerns about increased violence across the country since the start of the Afghan peace negotiations with the Taliban in Doha. 

 

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Nominated US envoy to Pakistan says cooperation critical in peace efforts

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(Last Updated On: September 24, 2020)

Nominated US envoy to Islamabad William Todd told a Senate Foreign Relations Committee on Wednesday that cooperation between the two countries was essential for bringing peace and stability to Afghanistan.

“Peace in Afghanistan is in both our countries’ best interests, and effective US-Pakistani cooperation is essential to achieve that objective,” he said.

“Today, our countries recognize that we share a common interest in a durable peace in Afghanistan,” Todd told the Senate panel.

He also said Islamabad “played a critical role in creating the conditions that brought Afghan leaders and the Taliban to the historic start of Afghan Peace negotiations” but that Pakistan now has “an even more important role to play in supporting efforts toward a negotiated political settlement that ends 40 years of war.” 

“This is a moment of opportunity for Pakistan to continue to forge a new and better role in the region,” he said.

He said if his nomination was approved and he was appointed ambassador to Pakistan, one of his top priorities would be to encourage Pakistan to play this role.

“In terms of regional dynamics, although we have a strong relationship with India, that does not need to come at the expense of Pakistan,” he said. “I believe that under the right conditions, we can have a strong relationship with both countries.”

He also said he thought Washington’s close ties with Delhi and Islamabad could help reduce tensions in the region. 

“Our hope is that both countries will take the necessary steps to reduce tensions, and as President [Donald] Trump has offered, we are prepared to facilitate dialogue if both sides request it,” he said.

He also stated he would work with Pakistan to advance a “shared interest in eliminating terrorism from its territory and advancing security in the region.”

Todd, who was nominated by Trump earlier this year, told the Senate panel that Pakistan remained a difficult but essential US partner in South Asia, and Washington was seeking to reset its ties with Islamabad.

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