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Taliban leader says group is on the verge of establishing “pure Islamic government” 

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(Last Updated On: July 28, 2020)

The Taliban’s leader Mawlawi Hibatullah Akhundzada stated Tuesday that the group is on the threshold of “establishing a pure Islamic government” and warned the United States and the international community to take the Doha-agreement seriously and “stop creating further problems”.

He said in his Eid ul-Adha message: “Our Jihad was and continues to be for ending the occupation and establishing a pure Islamic government, therefore, we reassure our Mujahid and persecuted nation that their aspirations will not be betrayed.”

Akhundzada said the Taliban had fulfilled its obligations regarding signing an agreement with the United States in Doha and efforts towards launching intra-Afghan negotiations but that it was now up to “other parties to determine how they utilize this opportunity at hand”.

He pointed out that the prisoner release issue was key to “building trust” and “shortening the path” towards peace. 

He stated that although progress had been made with the US and its allies in terms of them having started to implement the Doha agreement by initiating the withdrawal of troops and handing over of five military bases, the US government must also “not create obstacles for ending of the longest war in American history with unwarranted remarks and propaganda”.

He warned the US that it needs to “properly execute its obligations”.

Elaborating on this, he said the ten-day prisoner exchange process timeline was extended to four months and objected to the continuing existence of blacklists and the carrying out of drone strikes, raids and artillery attacks on “unjustifiable grounds”.

He said these did not serve the interests of anyone nor could such actions play a role in winning the war. 

“Rather such actions are counterproductive and only birth more complications, hence, it becomes imperative that both the United States and the international community take this issue seriously and stop creating further problems.”

Akhundzada’s remarks come just a day after the UN released its latest report on civilian casualties, stating over 1,200 people had been killed in the first six months of this year.

The report identified anti-government armed groups, including the Taliban and Daesh as the main cause of the casualties.

Afghanistan’s Office of the National Security Council also responded to the report and said the Taliban were responsible “for the vast majority” of civilian casualties. 

In its statement, the NSC said: “We note the midyear report by UNAMA and underscore the government’s findings from the field demonstrate that the Taliban are responsible for the vast majority of the civilian casualties in Afghanistan, either directly or by creating an enabling environment for other terrorist groups to attack civilians.”

NATO also responded to the report and said on Twitter: “Unacceptable violence levels by the Taliban cause the majority of civilian casualties. Taliban insistence on violence risks harming the unique opportunity for peace. NATO calls on the Taliban to cease violence, live up to their commitments and enter intra-Afghan negotiations ASAP.”

The Taliban did however responded to the report late Monday. Their spokesman, Zabihullah Mujahid said: “We strongly reject this report by UNAMA. The report has been written and published based on information provided by Kabul administration security organs and has failed to establish actual cases of civilian casualties.”

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Pompeo hails peace talks agreement as a ‘major milestone’

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(Last Updated On: December 2, 2020)

US Secretary of State Michael Pompeo said on Wednesday night that the agreement reached between the Afghan Republic’s negotiating team and that of the Taliban “provides hope” that a political settlement can eventually be reached. 

Pompeo’s statement came shortly after the two parties to the peace talks in Doha announced they had reached an agreement on the rules and procedures in order to start formal talks. 

In his statement, Pompeo said: “The US welcomes the Agreement announced today by the negotiating teams from the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan and the Taliban. 

“This Agreement is a major milestone in the Afghanistan Peace Negotiations that have been underway since September 12, 2020.

“The Agreement codifies the rules and procedures the two sides have been negotiating since the start of talks.  

“The teams made a number of important decisions that will guide their negotiations on a political roadmap and a comprehensive ceasefire,” he said.

Pompeo also stated that the US congratulates both sides on their perseverance and willingness to find common ground.  He said “this achievement demonstrates that the Afghan Islamic Republic and Taliban are serious, able to overcome differences, and ready to deal with difficult issues.”

“What has been achieved provides hope they will succeed in reaching a political settlement to this more than forty-year-old conflict. The United States thanks Qatar for its role as host and facilitator of the talks,” he said.

Pompeo also stated that the people of Afghan want rapid progress on a political roadmap and a ceasefire more than anything else.  

He also said the US, along with most of the international community, will continue to support the peace process in pursuit of this goal.  

“As negotiations on a political roadmap and permanent ceasefire begin, we will also work hard with all sides in pursuit of a serious reduction of violence and ceasefire,” he said.

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Doha talks breakthrough welcomed by government and foreign partners

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(Last Updated On: December 2, 2020)

The United States, European Union (EU), UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) and the British Embassy in Kabul were among many who welcomed Wednesday’s announcement of a breakthrough in the Doha peace talks and say they hope this leads to a ceasefire.

US peace envoy, Zalmay Khalilzad, also welcomed the announcement that the Afghan Republic’s negotiating team and the Taliban had agreed on the rules and procedures of talks going forward.

In a series of tweets, Khalilzad however emphasized the need for a reduction in violence and ceasefire.

“As negotiations on a political roadmap and permanent ceasefire begin, we will work hard with all sides for a serious reduction of violence and even a ceasefire during this period. This is what the Afghan people want and deserve” tweeted Khalilzad.

According to Khalilzad, “this agreement demonstrates that the negotiating parties can agree on tough issues…The people of Afghanistan now expect rapid progress on a political roadmap and a ceasefire. We understand their desire and we support them.”

The US embassy in Kabul also welcomed the breakthrough in a tweet. US Charge d’Affaires Ross Wilson said: “Welcome news from the Afghanistan Peace Negotiations.”

Andreas von Brandt, Ambassador and Head of Delegation of the European Union in Afghanistan, also hailed the breakthrough calling it a ”promising step forward.”

Deborah Lyons, UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) chief “welcomes progress achieved by both negotiating teams in the Afghan Peace Process. Moving on to the agenda is a positive development,” her office tweeted.

According to UNAMA “this breakthrough should be a springboard to reach the peace wanted by all Afghans.”

The British embassy in Kabul also tweeted and said they are encouraging both sides to continue the positive momentum.
“The biggest obstacle remaining is the current unacceptable level of violence: this must stop. Peace is the only solution for lasting stability, security, and peace in Afghanistan” the embassy tweeted.

Abdullah Abdulah, Chairman of the High Council for National Reconciliation also welcomed the latest development.

“I welcome the initial major step taken in Doha today agreeing to the procedural framework that paves the way for discussions about the peace agenda. I thank the republic’s negotiation team, all facilitators and the host Qatar for their valuable support,” tweeted Abdullah.

The Presidential Palace was also quick to respond. President Ashraf Ghani’s spokesman Sediq Sediqqi tweeted: “The President of Islamic Republic of Afghanistan welcomes the finalization of the negotiation procedures in Doha. It’s a step forward towards beginning the negotiations on the main issues, including a comprehensive ceasefire as the key demand of the Afghan people for a lasting peace.”

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NATO chief says decision to stay or leave will be made in February

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(Last Updated On: December 2, 2020)

NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg on Tuesday night elaborated on his comment earlier this week about troops withdrawal and said NATO and its allies will “face a turning point early next year.”

Addressing a virtual press conference after the first day of the meetings of NATO Ministers of Foreign Affairs, Stoltenberg said ministers discussed NATO2030 and how to further adapt the Alliance for the future and addressed the situation in Afghanistan.

“NATO supports the Afghan peace process. And as part of that, we have adjusted our presence. While the United States has decided to further reduce its troop numbers to 2,500, NATO’s training mission continues. And over half of our forces are, now, non-US. 

“Ministers made clear that all Allies remain committed to the mission. And to supporting Afghan security forces in the fight against terrorism. As we continue to assess the situation in Afghanistan, it is clear that we will face a turning point early next year,” he said.

“If we stay, we risk continued fighting. And an even longer-term engagement.

 “If we leave, we risk Afghanistan once again becoming a safe haven for international terrorists. And the loss of the gains made with such sacrifice.

“So there is a price for staying longer. But there is also a price for leaving too soon. We will have to take some hard decisions when NATO defense ministers meet next February. 

“But whatever we decide, we must do it in a coordinated and orderly way,” he said. 

Stoltenberg however emphasized that although NATO is committed to continue supporting the Afghan security forces the organization and its Allies have “stated many times that we will not stay in Afghanistan with our military presence for longer than necessary.”

He also said NATO and its Allies welcome that for the first time in two decades, there are now direct talks between the Taliban and the Afghan government.

“It’s far too early to say whether these talks will succeed, but they are the only path, they are the only real possibility, chance, for a political settlement of the crisis in Afghanistan.

“And, therefore, we will have to make an assessment next year about whether we deem the situation, what should I say . . . or the conditions in place for us to further reduce and eventually leave Afghanistan, or whether we have to stay.”

He said that is a decision NATO will take based on consultations between all NATO Allies. 

“The defense ministerial meeting in February will be an important meeting. And we have to remember that this is something that the whole of NATO and, actually, also several partners are part of.” 

He pointed out however that until this year the US, which is NATO’s biggest Ally, had the largest number of troops in Afghanistan over the years, but now the majority of the foreign troops in Afghanistan are from European Allies and partner countries – non-US troops. 

He again called on the Taliban to reduce violence but said this was just the first step. “What we need to see is a lasting peace agreement. And part of that has to be a ceasefire. So, the reduction of violence should only be the first step.”

 

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