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Taliban forms new 20-member peace talks team 

Ariana News



(Last Updated On: August 27, 2020)

The Taliban’s chief negotiator Abbas Stanikzai said the group has formed a new 20-member team responsible for holding intra-Afghan talks and negotiations with the United States. 

In an interview with RFE/RL on Wednesday, Stanikzai said he will head the new department which will also be tasked with selecting the location and preparing the agenda for planned peace talks. 

Talks, which were supposed to have started early this month, hit a roadblock after President Ashraf Ghani suspended the prisoner release process, which had been a pre-condition for start of talks between government and the Taliban. 

This condition was in accordance with the Doha agreement, signed in February, between the group and the US. 

Ghani has refused to release the remaining 320 ‘hardcore’ Taliban prisoners, many of whom masterminded some of Afghanistan’s major attacks while others are drug kingpins. 

Stanikzai meanwhile told RFE/RL that the newly formed department is separate from the Doha-based Taliban political office and will be in direct contact with the Taliban leadership. 

He also said the intra-Afghan talks will be held in different countries.

Stanikzai’s interview coincided with the visit of a Taliban group, led by Mullah Abdul Baradar, to Pakistan this week at the invitation of Islamabad. 

In a statement issued early Thursday morning, the Qatar-based political office’s spokesman Suhail Shaheen said a six-member delegation had met with Pakistan’s Foreign Minister Mahmood Qureshi, Pakistan’s Special Representative for Afghanistan and other senior officials. 

He said the team discussed a wide range of issues including that of Taliban prisoners being held in Pakistan jails. 

The “release of Afghan prisoners in Pakistan was also held under discussion with Pakistani officials promising that all necessary steps for their release will be taken,” read the statement. 

According to the statement, “those without families or held on petty crime charges will be freed while prison sentence of those held on serious charges will be reduced.”

Discussions were also held on the need for peace and security in Afghanistan and the region and “both sides stress upon the importance of building trust and good relations between the two countries.”

This visit came just days after Pakistan imposed sanctions on individuals and “terrorist associated groups”, including Baradar, in keeping with the United Nations Security Council resolutions in order to avoid being demoted from the Financial Action Task Force’s (FATF) grey list.

Included in the measures taken, which would theoretically directly affect Baradar, Pakistan imposed a travel ban on 88 individuals and seized bank accounts and assets belonging to terrorists in the country. 

In a statement last week, the Foreign Ministry said: “The sanctions are being implemented by Pakistan in compliance with the relevant UNSC resolutions and we hope that other countries will also follow suit.” 

This notification comes ahead of the crucial FATF meeting in October which will see the force assess Pakistan’s progress in fighting crimes such as money laundering and terror financing. 

Pakistan has long been accused of sheltering and supporting Taliban leaders but Islamabad has continued to deny the charges.

Pakistan meanwhile has been on FATF’s grey list since June 2018 and was given a final warning in February.


Global coronavirus caseload crosses the 40 million mark

Ariana News



(Last Updated On: October 19, 2020)

The number of COVID-19 cases worldwide passed the 40 million mark on Monday, according to a Reuters tally. 

Reuters reported that this comes as the onset of winter in the northern hemisphere appears to have fuelled a resurgence in the spread of the disease. 

Experts however believe the true numbers of both cases and deaths are likely much higher, given deficiencies in testing and potential under-reporting by some countries.

The Reuters data shows the pace of the pandemic continues to increase as it took just 32 days to go from 30 million global cases to 40 million, compared with the 38 days it took to get from 20 to 30 million, the 44 days between 10 and 20 million, and the three months it took to reach 10 million cases from when the first cases were reported in Wuhan, China, in early January.

Reuters also reported that record one-day increases in new infections were seen at the end of last week, with global coronavirus cases rising above 400,000 for the first time.

The United States, India, and Brazil remain the worst affected countries in the world. 


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UN secretary general condemns Ghor attack 

Ariana News



(Last Updated On: October 19, 2020)

UN Secretary-General António Guterres on Monday strongly condemned the attack in Ghor province on Sunday that killed and wounded dozens of civilians. 

In a statement issued by the organization, Guterres said he “strongly condemns the indiscriminate attack today on a provincial police headquarters in Afghanistan’s province of Ghor, in an area where many civilians are present.”  

The UN stated that according to preliminary reports, the car bomb claimed the lives of at least 13 people and injured dozens of civilians, including women and children. 

“Those who carry out such crimes must be held accountable,” the statement read. 

“The Secretary-General expresses his deepest sympathies to the families of the victims and wishes a speedy recovery to those injured,” Guterres said.

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US peace envoy warns high levels of violence could derail peace process 

Ariana News



(Last Updated On: October 19, 2020)

US special peace envoy Zalmay Khalilzad warned that “distressingly” high levels of violence could derail the peace process and the understanding that there is no military solution to the war in Afghanistan. 

In a series of tweets overnight Monday, Khalilzad appeared to have been responding to Sunday’s spat between the Taliban and the US Forces Afghanistan after the insurgent group accused the US of violating the Doha agreement by carrying out airstrikes in Helmand and Farah provinces last week. 

The US Forces Afghanistan responded not long after rejecting the claim and said they were within the terms of the agreement as they had been defending the Afghan security forces who had come under attack by the Taliban. 

The Taliban also issued a veiled threat in their statement and said: “All responsibility and consequences from the continuation of such actions shall fall squarely on the shoulders of the American side.”

Khalilzad meanwhile said in his Twitter statement: “Unfounded charges of violations and inflammatory rhetoric do not advance peace. Instead, we should pursue strict adherence to all articles of the US-Taliban Agreement and US-Afghanistan Joint Declaration and not neglect the commitment to gradually reduce violence.

“Continued high levels of violence can threaten the peace process and the agreement and the core understanding that there is no military solution. Violence today remains distressingly high in spite of the recent reaffirmation of the need for substantial reduction.

“Taliban attacks in Helmand, including on the provincial capital; Taliban attacks against Afghan security forces; & Taliban complaints of ANSF operations and coalition strikes led to a recent meeting in Doha.

“All sides agreed to decrease attacks and strikes and reduce violence and casualties. Although violence in Helmand has decreased, violence overall in the country remains high.

“Our expectation has been and remains that violence comes down and stays down.

“It was a focus of the Agreement we signed, further highlighted in connection with the releases of the last batch of prisoners and reaffirmed again in the most recent commitment all sides made to adhere to all aspects of the deal,” Khalilzad said. 

Reacting to the car bombing on Sunday in Ghor province that killed at least 13 people, Khalilzad stated: “Violence has stalked Afghans for far too long. It has robbed far too many Afghans of their loved ones. The tragedy in Ghor today is the most recent example.”

He said: “The belief that says violence must escalate to win concessions at the negotiating table is very risky. Such an approach can undermine the peace process and repeats past miscalculations by Afghan leaders.

“We must adhere to the letter and spirit of what was negotiated and the recent understanding. They provide a path to minimizing Afghan loss of life and protecting an historic opportunity for peace which must not be missed,” Khalilzad said.

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