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Khalilzad’s hurrying thread of meetings to kick off Intra-Afghan talks

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(Last Updated On: May 21, 2020)

Khalilzad met the Taliban representatives and Afghan authorities Wednesday in attempts to start the Intra-Afghan negotiations.

In his latest thread of visits, the US Special Representative Zalmay Khalilzad met with the Taliban representatives and Afghan authorities respectively in Doha, and Kabul aimed to discuss the starting of the Intra-Afghan negotiations in no time.

In Doha, he said he had held 3 constructive meeting s with Mullah Baradar and members of the Taliban Political Commission in Doha, Qatar, and that he had emphasized the US-Taliban agreement is inter-connected – counter-terrorism commitments, Intra-Afghan negotiations, troop withdrawal, and gradual violence reduction leading to a permanent ceasefire.

“I also raised missing Americans Mark Frerichs and Paul Overby as well as our concerns about recent Taliban attacks in Kunduz, Ghazni, & Khost. We discussed their concerns with President Ghani’s ordering offensive attacks,” he said.

According to him, he has underlined the reduction in violence to the Taliban representatives, noting that it must fall by all sides. “Innocent Afghans have borne far too much and for too long the costs of this war,” he wrote.

He writes that the Taliban also expressed their commitment to the agreement and its implementation, adding, “They said they would do all they could to locate our citizens. They will consult their leadership in the next step.”

Confirming the events, the Taliban Political Commission Spokesperson Suhail Shaheen tweeted that they “talked in detail about the acceleration of the peace process.”

Quoting Mullah Baradar, he wrote, “Solution of the Afghan issue lies in the complete implementation of the Agreement. Other mechanisms rather than the Agreement, means creating hurdles in the way of peace. Even now, the peace process has been harmed. Any further delay in its implementation will further harm the process.”

In Kabul, Khalilzad met with the newly reconciled political couple, President Ghani and Chairman of the High Council for National Reconciliation, Abdullah.

He wrote, “We discussed the next steps required to implement the agreement between the 2 leaders. On peace, we agreed that violence is much too high and there is a need to move urgently to reduce it by all sides.

“We also agreed on the importance of delivering (and soon) on other commitments made in the US-Taliban agreement and US-Afghanistan joint declaration including the release of prisoners by both sides and the start of Intra-Afghan negotiations.

It is noteworthy that in the meantime, neighboring China, Russia, and Iran have also emphasized the need to commence the Intra-Afghan negotiations.

They have said that they hoped that the Intra-Afghan negotiations begin as soon possible, noting that they can play a constructive role in strengthening the peace process.

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UNAMA Chief warns of Taliban offensive

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(Last Updated On: June 22, 2021)

The U.N. special envoy Deborah Lyons on Afghanistan warned on Tuesday that Taliban insurgents have taken more than 50 of 370 districts in the country since May and that increased conflict “means increased insecurity for many other countries, near and far”.

“Those districts that have been taken surround provincial capitals, suggesting that the Taliban are positioning themselves to try and take these capitals once foreign forces are fully withdrawn,” Deborah Lyons told the U.N. Security Council.

After 20 years, the United States has started a withdrawal of its remaining 2,500 troops in Afghanistan and aims to be completely out of the country by Sept. 11. Around 7,000 non-U.S. forces from mainly NATO countries – along with Australia, New Zealand, and Georgia – are also planning to leave by Sept. 11.

Lyons said the announcement earlier this year that foreign troops would withdraw sent a “seismic tremor” through Afghanistan, and that while this was expected, “its speed – with the majority of troops now already withdrawn – was not.

“All of the major trends – politics, security, the peace process, the economy, the humanitarian emergency, and of course COVID – all of these trends are negative or stagnate,” Lyons told the 15-member Security Council. “The possible slide toward dire scenarios is undeniable.”

U.S.-backed Afghan forces toppled the radical Islamist Taliban from power in late 2001 for refusing to hand over al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden after Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on the United States.

U.S. President Joe Biden will meet at the White House with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani and the chairman of Afghanistan‘s High Council for National Reconciliation, Abdullah Abdullah, on Friday amid the surge in fighting.

Talks in Qatar between the Taliban and Afghan government representatives on a political settlement have stalled.

“There is only one acceptable direction for Afghanistan … away from the battlefield, and back to the negotiating table,” Lyons said. “The United Nations Security Council, with the support of the regional countries, must do all it can to push the parties in that direction.”

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Taliban infiltrators arrested in Kunduz: MoD

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(Last Updated On: June 22, 2021)

The Ministry of Defense (MoD) said Tuesday that a number of Taliban infiltrators were arrested in northern Kunduz province amid a sharp increase in Taliban attacks across the country.

The MoD said in a statement that the infiltrators – under the guise of tribal elders – had spoken to the Defense and Security Forces (ANDSF) to hand over a security checkpoint to the Taliban without any clash.

The suspects were arrested in the Kala Gaw area of the provincial capital Kunduz city.

Earlies the Ministry of Interior (MoI) warned that the tribal elders who act as mediators to negotiate between government forces and the Taliban for handing over outposts to the militants will be arrested.

Tariq Arian, a spokesman for the MoI, stated that “indeed, the act of them (elders) is a direct cooperation with the Taliban.”

“The Afghan Security and Defense Forces (ANSDF) have already been directed to arrest anyone who [acts as mediator],” Arian tweeted last week.

This comes as the Taliban insurgents have launched coordinated attacks to capture centers of the districts across the country.

Security sources told Ariana News that the Chora district of Uruzgan; Maiwand district in Kandahar; Nahrin district and Unit 20 of Afghan forces in the Chashma-i-Shir area in Baghlan province; Chahar Dara district and Sher Khan Port in Kunduz; and the Shah Joi district of Zabul province were fallen to the Taliban in the last 24 hours.

The Afghan forces, however, have retaken the Balkh district in Balkh provinces; the Doshi district of Baghlan province; and the Khanabad district in Kunduz province in the same period.

According to reports, dozens of districts have been captured by the Taliban since the militants intensified clashes across the country.

The Afghan military said at least 234 Taliban militants have been killed and 103 others wounded in clashes in Logar, Nangarhar, Paktika, Khost, Kandahar, Zabul, Faryab, Balkh, Samangan, Helmand, Takhar, Baghlan, Parwan, Kunduz, and Kabul provinces.

The Taliban, however, has not commented in this regard so far.

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Indian officials meet with Taliban in Doha: Report

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(Last Updated On: June 22, 2021)

A senior Qatari official said Indian officials made a “quiet visit” to Doha where they met with the Taliban’s political leadership.

India Today reported Tuesday that speaking at a virtual event, ‘Looking Towards Peace in Afghanistan after the US-NATO Withdrawal’, organised by Arab Center Washington DC, Qatar’s Special Envoy of the State of Qatar for Counterterrorism and Mediation of Conflict Resolution Mutlaq bin Majed Al Qahtani said, “There has been a quiet visit by Indian officials to speak with the Taliban. Why? Because not everybody is believing that the Taliban will dominate and take over because the Taliban is a key component or is going to be a key component of the future of Afghanistan.”

Al Qahtani’s comment comes after India’s External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar met with Qatari leadership twice on June 9 and June 15. During these meetings he met with the Qatari Foreign Minister and the National Security Advisor, as well as US Special Representative on Afghanistan reconciliation Zalmay Khalilzad.

Responding to a question by an Indian journalist about his meetings with the Qatari leadership, US Special envoy Zalmay Khalizad and the role of India in Afghanistan, Mutlaq Al Qahtani said, “I see the reason behind the talks or dialogue or reaching out to all parties in Afghanistan. It is important to keep in mind that we are in a critical stage at this time and if any meeting is going to take place, it should be for one main reason, which is to encourage the parties to solve their differences by peaceful means.”

India Today reported that the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA), however, declined to comment on Al Qahtani’s statement. There has been no official word or confirmation by the MEA on any engagement with the Taliban leadership since the Doha talks began or even before, India Today reported.

Asked whether talks between India and Pakistan were being discussed as part of the Afghanistan reconciliation process, the Qatari special envoy said, “Should not allow Afghan soil to be used as proxy among any countries. It is in the interest of Pakistan to have a more stable Afghanistan. It is in the interest of India, of course, to have a more stable Afghanistan. We understand Pakistan as a neighbouring country and India as country that assisted a lot economically in Afghanistan and want Afghanistan to be peaceful and stable.”

While India has not officially engaged the Taliban, Indian representatives have attended key Afghan processes, including the inauguration ceremony for the Doha talks.

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