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Pompeo pushes for ceasefire during Doha meeting

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(Last Updated On: November 22, 2020)

US Secretary of State Michael Pompeo met with both the Afghanistan Republic and the Taliban’s negotiating teams in Doha, Qatar on Saturday to discuss issues around the peace process and a ceasefire, his office confirmed overnight in a statement.

According to the US State Department’s Principal Deputy Spokesperson Cale Brown, Pompeo “commended both sides for continuing to negotiate and for the progress they have made.

“Secretary Pompeo and the negotiators discussed ways to reduce violence, and he encouraged expedited discussions on a political roadmap and a permanent and comprehensive ceasefire,” Brown said in a statement.

“Secretary Pompeo reiterated that the people of Afghanistan expect and deserve to live in peace and security after 40 years of war and bloodshed,” Brown added.

US Special Representative for Afghanistan Reconciliation Zalmay Khalilzad was also present at the meetings.

The Afghan negotiating team said tweeted late Saturday night that “during the meeting, Sayed Sadat Mansoor Naderi, Minister of State for Peace Affairs and a member of the negotiating team thanked the United States for its continued support to Afghanistan over the years.”

Naderi also called on the US to continue supporting Afghanistan even once a peace agreement has been signed.

“The members of the negotiating team said that the people of Afghanistan want to preserve the achievements of the last two decades in the country. They also said that the escalation of violence after the release of 5,000 Afghan prisoners was unacceptable and in conflict with the Doha Agreement,” the negotiating team tweeted.

The Afghan talks team told Pompeo that the Afghan people want a permanent ceasefire.

“During the meeting, the members of the negotiating team said that the ongoing war in Afghanistan is against Islam and its continuation is unacceptable to the international community,” the Afghan talks team tweeted.

“During the meeting, Mike Pompeo, referring to US support for the peace process, said that lasting peace is a common goal of both countries. The country’s support for lasting peace in Afghanistan will continue, as well as long-term commitments to the Afghan people,” the team stated.

The Taliban’s spokesman in Doha, Naeem Mohammed also issued a series of tweets late Saturday night, after the meetings.

He said: “The political deputy and head of the political office Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar and the head of negotiating team Sheikh Mawlawi Abdulhakeem and the delegation accompanying them met with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and his team.

“During the meeting, the importance of the agreement signed between the two sides and commitment to it were discussed.

“Likewise, the removal [of Taliban] from Blacklist, the liberation of remaining prisoners and the topics related to Intra-Afghan negotiations were talked about,” Naeem tweeted.

Pompeo met with talks team negotiators after recent indications point towards some headway having been made in talks, which started in September but soon hit a deadlock.

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Taliban under pressure from US for failing to stick to deal: Envoy

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(Last Updated On: November 30, 2020)

Ross Wilson, US Chargé d’Affaires to Afghanistan said Monday that the US will put pressure on the Taliban as the group has failed to act in accordance with the US-Taliban agreement and has not reduced violence in Afghanistan.

In an interview with Ariana News, Wilson said the increase in violence across the country is unacceptable and that the Taliban has not heeded calls by the United States or the international community for a reduction in violence.

He also accused the Taliban of being involved in targeted killings and said the group “is complicit in a culture of violence”.

“The Taliban are not meeting the commitments they made with us in concluding US-Taliban agreement in February. We have repeatedly called on the Taliban to reduce the violence.

“Unfortunately, our efforts, our advocacy, and advocacy by many of Afghanistan’s other friends. the efforts of the United Nations did not succeed. And we are putting pressure on the Taliban. This is important for the success of the peace process and for the success of this country,” said Wilson.

Questions around the withdrawal of US troops from Afghanistan and the foreign policy of the incoming US president, Joe Biden, on Afghanistan were also raised in the interview.

However, Wilson did not comment on the foreign policy but did say the withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan was conditions-based.

“US forces and coalition forces remain substantial. We are actively defending the Afghan Defense and Security Forces. The issue of withdrawal, which was previously announced by the United States, will be based on conditions,” Wilson added.

Wilson also said the United States is working with the Afghan government to recover money embezzled by corrupt individuals.

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Cross-border markets will be up-and-running in February

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(Last Updated On: November 30, 2020)

Pakistan said Monday that one of the 12 Joint Border Trade Markets, that is to be established along the Afghanistan-Pakistan border, will be launched by February 2021.

In a statement released on Monday, the Embassy of Pakistan in Kabul stated that the market would be operational at Shaheedano Dand in Kurram Agency of Pakistan.

“The Joint Border Trade Markets are believed to promote the wellbeing of the people living on both sides of the border, rehabilitate those affected by anti-smuggling drive, economically integrate the neglected areas, formalize bilateral trade and transform local economies of people living across Pak-Afghan border,” Pakistan Embassy in Kabul said in a statement on Monday.

According to the statement, Pakistan has prepared a draft Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) on the establishment of the markets with Afghanistan.

The statement noted that the MoU has covered “all the modalities including the proposed list of items to be traded in these markets and locations where the border markets are to be established, the composition of Border Market Management Committees, which will oversee the smooth working of the markets, the medium of exchange and dispute settlement.”

“Once, formally established, the people friendly initiative of JBTMs of Prime Minister of Pakistan is expected to uplift the economic and social wellbeing of the people living across Pak-Afghan border,” the statement read.

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NATO facing difficult dilemma on whether to leave or stay: Stoltenberg

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(Last Updated On: November 30, 2020)

NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said Monday that “no one wants to stay in Afghanistan longer than necessary.”

Addressing an online press conference ahead of the NATO Ministers of Foreign Affairs meeting, Stoltenberg stated the organization’s training mission continues despite the US’ decision to further reduce troop levels in Afghanistan.

This comes after outgoing US President Donald Trump decided to further reduce American forces in Afghanistan from around 4,000 to 2,500, as part of the Doha deal which was signed between the US and the Taliban in February.

Stoltenberg, meanwhile, stated that the alliance forces would assess their presence in Afghanistan in the next few months.

“In the months ahead, we will continue to assess our presence based on conditions on the ground,” he noted.

“We face a difficult dilemma, whether to leave and risk that Afghanistan becomes once again a safe haven for international terrorists. Or stay, and risk a longer mission, with renewed violence,” he said.

According to the Doha deal, the US should pull all its troops out of Afghanistan by May.

But US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo told Fox News last week that the full withdrawal remains based on a set of conditions on the ground.

“That was what we’d agreed to. We have made some progress. We’ve had significant prisoner releases. We have violence levels that have reduced risks to Americans significantly over this time period since February of last year,” Pompeo stated.

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