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Karzai urges govt and Taliban to own the peace talks process

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(Last Updated On: May 31, 2021)

Former Afghan President Hamid Karzai has called on government and the Taliban to take the peace talks initiative out of “foreign project” mode and turn it into an accelerated national necessity.

He said the peace talks process has so far failed and noted it has been a foreign initiative.

Addressing an event on Monday entitled “Kabul Peace Symposium” organized by the Nation Party of Afghanistan, Karzai said: “Turn peace into a national process.”

“Build from ourselves and on our soil. Encourage the Taliban and our government to go to Bamiyan [for peace talks]. We have good hotels [in the province] and the weather is good and there is no need for air conditioning.”

Karzai said the Afghan people have been pitted against each other and that peace talks should be concluded as soon as possible.

Karzai also named a few other provinces, which he said could serve as a venue for talks.

He called on all parties to make the peace process a “national” initiative – an Afghan process.

Karzai also said that should the peace process be transformed and no longer be a “project”, negotiations could take place a lot quicker and conclusions reached sooner.

He also said once peace has been achieved, Afghanistan will be able to tackle issues with neighbors and the international community with a lot more determination and independence.

Karzai noted that often wars ended after a short period of intense negotiations.

On this note he said Afghanistan’s peace talks should be wrapped up within a month, or less, of starting.

Other speakers at the meeting, including Rangin Dadfar Spanta, former national security adviser, agreed and said the peace process needs to be “nationalized”.

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Public support gathers momentum in favor of Afghan security forces

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(Last Updated On: August 3, 2021)

Calls by President Ashraf Ghani and other politicians for the public to rise up against the Taliban and support the Afghan National Defense and Security Forces (ANDSF) is gathering momentum as people raise their voices against the insurgent group.

Overnight, Herat residents took to the streets and to roof tops chanting slogans, including Allahu Akbar (God is Great) in support of the Afghan security forces.

In the wake of this a wide-spread social media campaign was launched Tuesday calling on Kabul residents to do the same.

Posts on social media, including Twitter and Facebook, have called on Kabul residents to also take to their rooftops and streets and chant words of encouragement to the Afghan troops. According to posts, this will start at 9pm.

Fawad Aman, a defense ministry spokesman, also took to Twitter to announce the plan. He said: “Tonight in Kabul; Everyone will chant “God is Great” in support of the Afghan Security Forces”.

Following the encouraging show of support for security forces in Herat on Monday night, former Afghan President Hamid Karzai said he sees the “resounding shout of the honorable people of Herat as a clear sign of the Afghan people’s disgust with the foreign imposed war in the country”.

Karzai also called on the Taliban to take this spontaneous movement of the people as a serious warning and to stop the war, killing and destroying the houses, villages and infrastructure of the Afghan people and to ensure peace in this ancient land. “Let our oppressed begin to live in peace with dignity.”

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Herat residents chant from their roofs in support of security forces

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(Last Updated On: August 3, 2021)

As battles raged across Herat city on Monday night, amid a barrage of attacks by the Taliban, thousands of residents stood on the roofs of their houses and shouted out words of encouragement to the Afghan National Defense and Security Forces who were battling the insurgent group.

After President Ashraf Ghani’s appeal to members of parliament on Monday to mobilize their people in support of the security forces, Herat residents took to the streets and climbed on their roofs chanting slogans including “Allahu Akbar” (God is Great).

On Tuesday, Ghani responded in a tweet by saying that with the chanting of “Allahu Akbar” by Herat residents, this “showed in a loud voice what this phrase truly represents.”

This mobilization coincided with the launch of an operation in Herat against the Taliban – an operation that clearly has the support of the public.

Ismail Khan, a former jihadi leader and leader of the Popular Resistance Front, which is leading the fight by public uprising forces against the Taliban in Herat city, called on the people, including women, to show their support of the security forces.

“It is the duty of every woman and the people of Herat to save themselves from this army of ignorance (the Taliban). The Taliban are more ignorant than in the past, and if they enter the city of Herat with this ignorance, they will torment the people in such a way that everyone will regret not having risen up against the Taliban.”

Herat officials meanwhile announced on Monday that a large-scale operation against the Taliban had been launched in several parts of Herat city.

Herat Governor Abdul Sabour Qani said Tuesday the western part of Herat has been cleared of Taliban and security forces are continuing operations in the southern part of the city.

According to sources, clashes continue in the south of the city, about two kilometers from the city center.

The governor of Herat said that with the arrival of reinforcements from Kabul, the Taliban’s advance on the city of Herat has been stopped and ground and air operations against the group’s fighters are continuing.

Meanwhile, the Ministry of National Defense reports that more than 40 Taliban insurgents have been killed in recent clashes in the city of Herat and that several parts of the city have been cleared of Taliban.

The ministry did not comment on whether security forces had sustained any casualties.

The Taliban have not yet commented on the group’s casualties in clashes with government forces.

Meanwhile, a widespread social media campaign has been launched in Afghanistan calling on Kabul residents in the capital to also climb onto their roofs and chant words of encouragement to the security forces. Social media posts indicate the start of this is scheduled for 9pm Tuesday.

Fawad Aman, a defense ministry spokesman, even took to Twitter to announce the plan. He said: “Tonight in Kabul; Everyone will chant “God is Great” in support of the Afghan Security Forces”

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Khalilzad says a Taliban ruled Afghanistan will become a pariah state

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(Last Updated On: August 3, 2021)

The U.S. Special Representative for Afghanistan reconciliation, Zalmay Khalilzad, said Monday that if the Taliban take over the country by force, they will not win international recognition and “they will become a pariah state.”

Speaking to VOA, Khalilzad said the United States remains committed to promoting a political settlement between warring Afghans, stressing that neither side to the conflict can win militarily.

Asked whether the US has a moral and political responsibility to ensure that Afghanistan does not slide into another civil war, after U.S. military departure, as happened following the Soviet exit in 1989, Khalilzad said “it is a point that we have kept in mind that what happened in the 90s should not be repeated and that working with the Afghans we did something big, a huge sacrifice on the part of the Afghans with our support to get the Soviets out, and then we abandon Afghanistan, and a terrible war took place and it produced challenges particularly in 9/11.

“So, we do not want to repeat that mistake,” he said adding “we have an agreement with the Taliban in principle to depart. But we engaged the Taliban as part of a strategy, a plan to have safe withdrawal of U.S. forces.”

He also said the start of the peace process was part of this strategy.

According to him, the US-Taliban agreement, signed in Doha in February last year, provided the opportunity for Afghans to sit across the table from each other, “a historic development”, to reach an agreement to agree on a formula that would have broad support in Afghanistan and international support as well.

“Unfortunately, the two sides have not taken advantage of that opportunity as quickly as we would have liked, as the Afghan people would have liked,” he said.

He reiterated that there is no military solution to the war and that there must be a “political solution, a political agreement for a lasting peace.”

Khalilzad meanwhile stated that the Afghan government “also has had challenges or difficulties in terms of agreeing to or embracing the idea of a new Islamic government and the Taliban have used force to see if it could coerce the government into agreeing to a formula for a new Islamic government, a new constitution as they see it as well.”

He said in the US’s opinion, the Afghan government cannot get rid of the Taliban, “and the Taliban cannot conquer Afghanistan and have a government that has the support of the overwhelming majority of the Afghans and international support.”

He said while the Taliban tells the US they know there is no military solution, “maybe some Taliban think there is a military solution to the conflict.”

Khalilzad said “the wise thing is for both sides to engage seriously and quickly, urgently to respond to the wishes of the people of Afghanistan for a political agreement.”

He pointed out that history has shown, over the past 45 to 50 years, that attempts by one party to impose its will on the people only leads to war.

“I hope that the leaders of Afghanistan have learned that lesson and that they need to agree to a formula that has broad support, accepts that all Afghans have legitimate rights, that those rights have to be respected and the people have to have a say ultimately in how they are governed.”

ON the gains the Taliban has made in the country in terms of seizing territory, Khalilzad said the Afghan security forces “are numerically far superior than the Taliban. They have over three hundred thousand troops, it has an Air Force and it has special forces. It has heavy equipment and both proper leadership, political and military and proper military strategy and plan and execution.”

However he added “the government forces should have done a lot better than they are doing.”

Khalilzad, who has worked tirelessly to bring the two warring sides together over the past three years, told VOA that he is “concerned very much by the lack of progress. I know that the gap has been large, continues to be a big gap between the two sides, but they need to put the leader or the interests of the Country first, rather than their own interest or their factional interest.”

“There cannot be peace without a compromise, without give and take, without respect for the fundamental rights of all Afghans men and women and the Afghans having a say, ultimately the people and in terms of what happens to them.”

He said the question now is “will these leaders rise to the occasion and put country first or will they go down in history as people who put their own interests or the interests of their faction first”.

In conclusion, Khalilzad touched on Pakistan and its relations with the Taliban.

He said: “Pakistan has a special role and responsibility, given also that many Taliban leaders are in Pakistan, located there, to do what it can to encourage peace and a political settlement as soon as possible, for it will be judged internationally also as to whether it has done all that it can or it could to promote a political settlement.

He said peace in Afghanistan is in Pakistan’s interests and that many Pakistan leaders have acknowledged this.

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