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Taliban lays down conditions to attend Istanbul conference

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(Last Updated On: May 26, 2021)

The Taliban has said it will attend the U.S-proposed peace conference in Turkey on three conditions – the conference must be short, the agenda must not include decision-making on critical issues and the Taliban delegation should be low level. 

A senior Taliban leader, who spoke on condition of anonymity, told VOA: “Our leadership has proposed that the Istanbul meeting should not be longer than three days.”

Another senior Taliban leader also confirmed the news when approached by VOA.

The Istanbul Conference, designed to give momentum to stalled Doha peace talks, was proposed by the U.S. in April and was expected to be held in early May. However, the conference failed to materialize as the Taliban refused to attend. 

VOA reported that the head of the Qatar-based Taliban negotiation team, Abdul Hakeem, and several key members of the Taliban’s Qatar office, met with the group’s leader, Hibatullah Akhundzada, and some members of the Taliban leadership council. 

According to VOA, Hakeem was accompanied by Mullah Fazil, Mullah Shireen and Mullah Abdul Manan, all negotiation team members and that the consultations with Akhundzada lasted a month before concluding last week. 

Earlier reports indicated the deliberations were conducted in Pakistan where the Taliban leadership is believed to live. 

VOA reported that the Taliban’s decision on the Istanbul conference is a result of Pakistani and Qatari efforts, among other countries.   

“The Taliban leaders were basically not in favor of participation in the Istanbul conference, but they said they will attend with conditions and on request of Pakistan and Qatar,” the Taliban leader told VOA.   

The leader, who was privy to internal consultations, did not give details as to who will represent the Taliban, VOA reported.   

Nader Nadery, from the Afghan Republic’s negotiating team, told VOA that their side was unaware of this development. 

He said nothing had been officially shared with them. 

According to VOA, the United States, Turkey, and Afghanistan had proposed that at least one or more senior leaders other than the representatives of the Taliban negotiation team in Doha lead the Taliban team in Istanbul. VOA reported that officials from these countries have said they do not believe the Qatar office envoys, including Mullah Baradar, have the authority to make decisions in the talks.     

Initially, the U.S. proposed a 10-day meeting so the Taliban and Afghan Republic’s team could resolve differences and make some critical decisions. 

But VOA reported that according to the Taliban leader, the group’s senior leadership did not want Istanbul to be a decision-making platform, and they did not want a specific agenda for the meeting.   

VOA also reported that the Taliban leader said the group would not declare a ceasefire at the moment and that this issue would not be declared during intra-Afghan negotiations. 

 

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NATO to provide provisional funding to help run Kabul airport

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(Last Updated On: June 14, 2021)

NATO has not yet decided on who would run the Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul once foreign troops have withdrawn, the organization’s secretary-general Jens Stoltenberg said Monday night. 

Stoltenberg said however that Turkey would play a “key role” in running the airport and that NATO is committed to providing transitional funding for the key facility. 

This comes after Turkey offered to run and guard the airport after the withdrawal of troops. 

However, the Taliban issued a warning and said such a move would be a “mistake” and that any country doing so would be considered invaders. 

“The presence of foreign forces under whatever name or by whichever country in our homeland is unacceptable for the Afghan people and the Islamic Emirate (Taliban),” the group cautioned in a statement.

The Taliban insisted that the security of airports, foreign embassies, and diplomatic offices is the responsibility of Afghans, saying that “no one should hold out hope of keeping military or security presence” in Afghanistan.   

In a communique issued by the Heads of State and Government participating in the NATO Summit, it was stated that NATO will retain a Senior Civilian Representative’s Office in Kabul to continue diplomatic engagement and enhance its partnership with Afghanistan.

“Recognising its importance to an enduring diplomatic and international presence, as well as to Afghanistan’s connectivity with the world, NATO will provide transitional funding to ensure the continued functioning of Hamid Karzai International Airport,” the communique read.  

“We will also step up dialogue on Afghanistan with relevant international and regional partners. We continue to support the ongoing Afghan-owned and Afghan-led peace process, and call on all stakeholders to help Afghanistan foster a lasting inclusive political settlement that puts an end to violence; safeguards the human rights of Afghans, particularly women, children, and minorities; upholds the rule of law; and ensures that Afghanistan never again serves as a safe haven for terrorists.”

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NATO looking at setting up training base for Afghan forces in Qatar

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(Last Updated On: June 14, 2021)

Security officials under NATO command have approached Qatar to secure a base that can be used to train Afghan special forces as part of a strategic commitment after foreign forces withdraw from Afghanistan, three senior Western officials told Reuters.

After two decades of war, forces from 36 countries involved in NATO’s Resolute Support mission in Afghanistan are set to pull out of the country in coordination with a U.S. troop withdrawal by September 11.

“We are holding talks to earmark a base in Qatar to create an exclusive training ground for senior members of the Afghan forces,” said a senior Western security official in Kabul.

The official, whose country is part of the U.S.-led NATO alliance in Afghanistan, requested anonymity as he was not authorized to speak with journalists.

An integral part of Resolute Support has been to train and equip Afghan security forces fighting the Taliban, which was ousted from power in 2001 and has since waged an insurgency.

“We have made an offer but it is for authorities in Qatar to decide if they are comfortable with NATO using their territory as a training ground,” said a second security source based in Washington DC.

A third source, a diplomat based in Kabul, told Reuters bringing “Afghan special force members to Qatar for about four to six weeks of rigorous training” was under discussion.

Qatar’s government and NATO’s communications office did not respond to questions about the proposal to use the Gulf state as a base for training Afghan forces. 

The Afghan government also did not respond to a request for comment.

 

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Khalilzad says US ‘not leaving Afghanistan’ despite troop pullout

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(Last Updated On: June 14, 2021)

The US Special Representative for Afghanistan Reconciliation Zalmay Khalilzad has said the United States will not abandon the war-torn country even after the withdrawal of its forces.

Addressing a press conference during his visit to Kazakhstan’s capital, Nur-Sultan on Sunday, Khalilzad said: “Our forces are leaving Afghanistan, but the United States is not leaving Afghanistan. We will work hard for peace and reconciliation in Afghanistan.”

“We will continue our security assistance, and we will continue our economic and humanitarian assistance to Afghanistan,” he added.

This comes as concerns continue to grown around the uncertainty in Kabul amid a spike in violence and stalled peace talks between the Taliban and the Afghan Republic.

In Nur-Sultan, Khalilzad said he regularly discusses Afghanistan with his Russian counterpart, President Vladimir Putin’s special representative Zamir Kabulov, RFE\RL reported Monday.

“Russia and the United States are working well together in promoting peace in Afghanistan,” according to him.

Khalilzad is currently on a visit to the region in a drive to muster support for the peace process ahead of the US and NATO troops withdrawal, which is expected to be finalized by September 11.

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