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NATO calls for prisoner release issue to be resolved urgently

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(Last Updated On: July 15, 2020)

NATO has called on the Afghanistan government and the Taliban to “urgently resolve issues related to prisoner releases,” and to enter into intra-Afghan peace talks. 

In a statement issued by the organization on Tuesday, NATO said: “An Afghan-owned and led peace process aimed at finding a political resolution that ends decades of conflict is the only way to deliver sustainable peace to the Afghan people and to ensure Afghanistan’s long-term security and stability. 

The organization said it was committed to contributing to an environment conducive to this outcome. 

“We call on all sides to rapidly resolve the remaining issues still precluding the start of inclusive intra-Afghan negotiations,” the statement read.

According to them, the “current level of violence – driven especially by Taliban attacks against Afghan National Defense and Security Forces, remains unacceptably high, causing instability and undermining confidence in the peace process.”  

They pointed out that during the 2018 and 2020 Eid al-Fitr ceasefires and the period of reduced violence leading up to the signing of the US-Taliban agreement and the issuance of the US-Afghanistan Joint Declaration, all sides demonstrated the political will and capacity to stop the fighting. 

The statement went on to point out that given the impact of COVID-19, “we echo the call of the United Nations for the Taliban to agree to a humanitarian ceasefire that applies to all sides. Both sides must also urgently resolve issues related to prisoner releases.”

NATO pointed out that the military presence of the Alliance and its partners in the Resolute Support Mission in Afghanistan is conditions-based. 

“We will continue to consult and, if conditions allow, to adjust our military presence to support the peace process, initiated by the US-Taliban agreement and the US-Afghanistan Joint Declaration. 

“We urge the Government of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan and the Taliban to fulfill their commitments, including entering into intra-Afghan negotiations and ensuring terrorists never again find safe haven on Afghan soil. 

Highlighting recent attacks, NATO stated that these “heinous attacks targeting civilians, including women, children, civil society members, religious figures, and health care workers throughout Afghanistan underscore the urgency of fulfilling these critical commitments.”

In conclusion, the statement noted that NATO reaffirms its longstanding commitment to Afghanistan, the Afghan people, and the Afghan security forces through the Resolute Support Mission. 

“We expect intra-Afghan negotiations to lead to an enduring and comprehensive peace agreement that puts an end to violence, safeguards the human rights of all Afghans, including women and children, upholds the rule of law, and ensures that Afghanistan never again serves as a safe haven for terrorists.”

On Tuesday night, NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg tweeted: “The level of violence in Afghanistan driven by Taliban attacks, undermines confidence in the peace process. We call on all sides to rapidly start intra-Afghan talks. NATO Allies will continue to consult on our military presence to support peace process.”

This statement comes after a disagreement over about 600 prisoners from a total of 5,000 the Taliban want released prevented the launch of US-brokered peace talks.

Although prisoner releases by both sides have taken place, the Afghan government has said it does not want to release some prisoners for security reasons and its Western allies also object to some of them being set free.

The United States and the Taliban struck a landmark agreement in February on the withdrawal of US forces in exchange for Taliban security guarantees.

As part of the pact, the Taliban agreed to open power-sharing talks with the Afghan government.

 

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Fears of Taliban takeover post troop withdrawal are overblown: Khalilzad

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(Last Updated On: May 18, 2021)

The US special envoy to Afghanistan Zalmay Khalilzad said Tuesday predictions that the Taliban will quickly overrun Afghan government forces and conquer Kabul once U.S. and coalition forces have withdrawn are unduly pessimistic.

Testifying before the US House Foreign Affairs Committee, Khalilzad said: “I personally believe that the statements that their (Afghan) forces will disintegrate and the Talibs will take over in short order are mistaken.”

His comments came as committee members expressed concern that President Joe Biden’s decision to fully withdraw all troops by September 11 will lead to chaos and intensified civil war.

AP reported that Michael McCaul, a Texas Republican and withdrawal critic, asserted that there is “zero chance” the Taliban will abide by the commitments their leaders made in a February 2020 agreement with the Trump administration, which included engaging in sustained peace negotiations and severing all forms of cooperation with and support for al-Qaida.

“It seems all but certain the Taliban will try to overrun the country and return it to a pre-9/11 state after we have withdrawn,” McCaul said. 

“They’ve already ramped up their attacks, taking new territory and bases since the (Biden) announcement was made. Without a military presence in country, the U.S. is giving them room to deepen their relationship with terrorist groups like al-Qaeda, who may seek to launch external attacks on us and our allies from the country once again.”

Khalilzad argued that the Taliban have reason not to push for a military victory and instead pursue a negotiated political settlement that could give them international legitimacy and removal from certain American and United Nations sanctions. 

“They say they seek normalcy in terms of relations — acceptability, removal from sanctions, not to remain a pariah,” Khalilzad said.

Khalilzad said the U.S. military withdrawal is proceeding “so far so good,” and added: “We expect that to continue.” 

He said diplomatic efforts are underway to seek agreements with neighboring countries to position U.S. counterterrorism forces within strike distance of Afghanistan to be able to respond to future threats.

 

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Five military facilities handed over to Defense Ministry: CENTCOM

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(Last Updated On: May 18, 2021)

U.S. Central Command said Tuesday that about 115 C-17 military cargo loads of material have been flown out of Afghanistan and more than 5,000 pieces of equipment have been turned over to the Defense Logistics Agency for destruction.

According to a statement issued by CENTCOM, the U.S. has officially handed over five facilities to the Afghan Ministry of Defense. 

“U.S. Central Command estimates that we have completed between 13-20% of the entire retrograde process,” the statement read.

The foreign troops withdrawal process started officially on May 1 and according to U.S. President Joe Biden it will be complete by September 11 – the 20th anniversary of the 9/11 attack on the United States. 

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NSA says all leverage possible needed to get Taliban to talks tables

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(Last Updated On: May 18, 2021)

Afghan National Security Advisor (NSA) Hamdullah Mohib said Tuesday that all forms of leverage must be used to get the Taliban to actively engage in peace talks.

Mohib’s comments come amid an uptick in attacks by the Taliban in many province across the country following the three-day Eid ceasefire.

On Monday, Mohib discussed the Afghan peace process with Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi in a phone conversation.

According to Mohib’s office, Wang assured Mohib of China’s full support for peace, stating: “China wants an independent, sovereign and unified Afghanistan.”

Wang noted that a political settlement is the only viable solution for ending the long-term war in Afghanistan.

Mohib’s office stated that the two sides identified terrorism as a common threat that both sides should fight.

“Wang Yi offered that China can increase its efforts, including regionally, in support of peace in Afghanistan,” the organization said.

Meanwhile, Mohib told Wang that “Afghanistan believes all levers of influence should be used to induce Taliban to engage earnestly in peace, including UN sanctions and other avenues where China’s unique capabilities can be helpful.”

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