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Loya Jirga urges govt to release prisoners in order to kick start peace talks

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(Last Updated On: August 8, 2020)

Afghanistan’s Loya Jirga, or grand council of tribal elders, community leaders, and politicians, on Saturday, urged the government to release the remaining 400 Taliban prisoners so as to move forward with intra-Afghan talks.

The Loya Jirga, called to determine the fate of the prisoners, convened Friday and wrapped up on Saturday. Over 3,200 delegates participated.

The delegates were split up into 50 working committees and discussed the prisoner release issue for two days.

Once each group had made their decision they submitted their recommendations to the Jirga’s administrative board.

All 50 committees recommended government free the 400 controversial prisoners.

Abdullah Abdullah, the head of the High Council of National Reconciliation and the chair of the Loya Jirga, said Saturday that the committees recommended the prisoners be released but that the Jirga would officially “announce the outcome tomorrow.”

“I congratulate all Jirga members divided into 50 working committees for promptly ending their free deliberations. I welcome their input and recommendations as part of this important consultative exercise as we compile & announce the outcome tomorrow,” Abdullah said in a tweet.

Meanwhile, Abdullah said that the direct talks between the Afghan government and the Taliban would begin three days after the end of the Jirga.

“Three days after the end of the jirga, Afghan talks will begin and we are ready to move this process forward properly to end the war in Afghanistan,” Abdullah said.

A readout of their conclusions, seen by Ariana News, indicates that these committees urged the international community, especially the United States, to guarantee the start of intra-Afghan negotiations and a comprehensive ceasefire for the release of prisoners.

In their recommendations, the committees recommended that the government and the High Council of National Reconciliation consider the following points regarding the release of the prisoners and the hoped-for intra-Afghan peace talks:

  1. To achieve lasting and dignified peace, the parties must show the necessary flexibility;
  2. Release 400 remaining Taliban prisoners so that there is no excuse to postpone peace talks;
  3. Unconditional ceasefire shall be established with the release of Taliban prisoners and the parties shall remain committed to it;
  4. Peace talks should begin as soon as possible;
  5. The formation of an all-inclusive national body for peace negotiations capable of defending the values and achievements of the last 19 years;
  6. Afghan-led peace talks should preferably be held in Afghanistan;
  7. The countries involved in the Afghan issue should stop supporting the Taliban and not escalate tensions;
  8. The Taliban should no longer carry out terrorist attacks under the name of ISIS (Daesh);
  9. Prisoners should be released on national and international bail so that they do not rejoin the battlefield;
  10. Guarantee from the international community from the start and success of the talks and the establishment of lasting peace in Afghanistan;
  11. Release prisoners of the country’s security forces in order to prevent the weakening of their national spirit;
  12. Decisively defend the republic and the achievements of the last 19 years in the peace negotiations;
  13. Defend the constitution, especially the second chapter of the constitution and the democratic system in negotiations;
  14. Protect civil liberties and rights enshrined in the Constitution, especially the rights and freedoms of women;
  15. Preserve freedom of speech and freedom of the press;
  16. Share the progress of peace talks with the people of Afghanistan during the talks;
  17. The government must obtain the consent of the families of war victims;
  18. Involve all different sections of society, especially women and youth in the peace negotiating team;
  19. The negotiating team must have the full capacity for dialogue;
  20. Peace agreements under the supervision and guarantee of the United Nations, major world and regional powers;

“All the members of the relevant committees emphasized that the people of Afghanistan have been making sacrifices for years. War has taken a heavy toll on us. To achieve peace and stability and to end the devastating phenomenon of war, we agree to release Taliban prisoners, provided that the international community guarantees the success of the talks and the establishment of lasting peace,” the chairmen of the committees said.

The chairmen added: “Agreeing to release Taliban prisoners does not mean forgiving their crimes. No individual or institution has the right to do so. But achieving peace and stability in the country is a national priority and a public necessity.

“Therefore, to facilitate the success of the peace talks, it is necessary to pave the way for the start of negotiations.”

After submitting the report of the working committees, Abdullah Abdullah, Chairman of the High Council for National Reconciliation and Chairman of the Grand Consultative Peace Jirga, meanwhile expressed his gratitude for the patience, comprehensive advice and constructive and comprehensive suggestions made by the members of the Jirga and said: “The High Council for National Reconciliation is very important and we will make great use of it in the negotiations.”

The Speaker of the Grand Consultative Peace Jirga expressed satisfaction with the successful completion of the working committees and said: “Afghanistan is at a critical and historic stage. It is a great success to understand the sensitivity of the situation and to give your advice in the light of the current situation and with the national interest in mind. However, the conditions are not favorable. But what definitely guarantees our victory is our unity.”

Meanwhile, some committees objected to the composition of the current negotiating team, urging the government to reconsider its make up and select new members for the team.

But sources close to the Taliban say that after the release of 400 prisoners, early talks are not possible and the demands of the parties involved have not been finalized.

Sayed Akbar Agha, a former member of the Taliban, said: “The Taliban are waiting for the release of 400 prisoners and the Taliban are ready for Afghan talks, but it is possible that other figures will join the government’s negotiating team and this will not be possible in a short time.”

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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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