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Concerns raised around peace talks after journalists have Qatar visas rejected

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(Last Updated On: August 12, 2020)

The Afghan media on Wednesday voiced concern over the upcoming intra-Afghan peace talks in Doha after Qatar visas for local journalists were not approved.

Members of the public also objected to the move saying talks should not be held behind closed doors and that the people of Afghanistan have the right to be kept up-to-date on the details of negotiations.

A group of local journalists was expected to travel with the official Afghan negotiating team to Qatar this week for the start of the intra-Afghan negotiations on Sunday.

However, the government has not yet commented on the visa issue.

A member of the Access to Information Commission meanwhile said that this was a serious concern.

“The presence of journalists should be a condition for negotiations so that they bring any decisions made about the fate of the people to light,” he said.

Initially reports indicated the Afghan talks team, led by Mohammad Masoom Stanekzai, would leave Kabul, along with the group of journalists, on Wednesday.

However, the negotiating team will now only leave Thursday.

The Afghan negotiating team met with President Ashraf Ghani on Tuesday to discuss issues around the upcoming peace talks with the Taliban.

Stanekzai briefed Ghani following the Loya Jirga’s decision on Sunday in favor of releasing the final 400 Taliban prisoners – which had been a stumbling block in the way of kick-starting negotiations.

Stanekzai stated Tuesday they will sit around the negotiating table with the Taliban as a united team in favor of “the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan” and they will consider the interests of the people.

Meanwhile, Ghani said the Loya Jirga had drawn a peace roadmap for government, and that they are “committed to the implementation of that.”

“We are committed to peace, the goal is to end the war in a fundamental way,” Ghani added.

He said the peace talks team will negotiate a suitable and fair peace deal with the Taliban as it is in the best interests of the people.

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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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