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US rejects claims its pushing for interim government in Afghanistan

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(Last Updated On: January 13, 2021)

US Chargé d’Affaires to Kabul Ross Wilson said Wednesday afternoon that the United States has not advocated for an interim government nor is it advocating for one.

“We have not advocated, and the United States is not advocating, an interim government,” Wilson tweeted.

He said the United States is committed to bringing about an end to conflict in Afghanistan through a political settlement that ensures the country remains sovereign, unified and democratic, is at peace with itself and its neighbors and can preserve gains made over the last 19 years.

He stated that the first phase of Afghanistan Peace Negotiations in Doha constituted an important step forward, “but much remains to be done”.

“The United States remains firm in its call for an immediate reduction of violence and ceasefire,” he said.

Wilson also stated that he had spoken with the US Special Representative for Afghanistan Reconciliation Zalmay Khalilzad and that he has “and will continue to talk with Afghans about the need to accelerate the talks in Doha and solicited from those we have met their ideas, as well as their concerns.”

“The outcomes of Afghanistan Peace Negotiations are up to Afghans and we believe those outcomes should reflect the wishes and aspirations of the Afghan people,” he said.

Mention was first made about an interim government early last week when sources stated President Ashraf Ghani refused to meet with Khalilzad in Kabul for this very reason.

Sources stated that Khalilzad was urging a shift to an interim government but that Ghani was opposed to the idea.

On Sunday some Afghan politicians said that Ghani has cultivated new “friendships” with some of his critics in order to avoid an interim government and to stay in power.

This comes after Ghani appointed Mohammad Mohaqiq, head of the Wahdat-i-Islami Party, as his senior political and military adviser and introduced Rahila Dostum as a member of the Wolesi Jirga (Upper House of Parliament).

Mohaqiq’s appointment comes after a reported “cold shoulder” in the past after not having been invited to the Presidential Palace for any meetings.

“All political parties think that an interim government should be established. If Ghani thinks that he will be in power for four years it may be a reason for the appointments,” said Sattar Murad, a leading member of Jamayat-e-Islami party.

Sources close to Mohaqiq said that the move to appoint him was based on his abilities and role in the peace process.

The Presidential Palace on Saturday vowed to retain Afghanistan as a republic and only hand over power to an elected successor.

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Biden to keep Khalilzad as peace envoy for now

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(Last Updated On: January 23, 2021)

Former president Donald Trump’s peace envoy for Afghanistan Zalmay Khalilzad will retain his position, for now, three sources familiar with the matter told CNN. 

This move is not typical as traditionally an incoming administration replaces all politically appointed officials – especially those dealing with foreign policy issues. 

Khalilzad, a diplomatic veteran, has worked on the peace process for more than two years and has been the key official from Washington to meet with both the Afghan government and the Taliban as well as all other stakeholders and regional leaders. 

No further details were released and according to CNN the State Department did not comment when asked about Khalilzad staying on board. 

However, in a statement issued late Friday, the US National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan told his Afghan counterpart Hamdullah Mohib that the United States intends to review the February 2020 US-Taliban agreement.”

He also said Washington would assess whether the Taliban was living up to its commitments to cut ties with terrorist groups, to reduce violence in Afghanistan and to engage in meaningful negotiations with the Afghan government and other stakeholders.

Sullivan also expressed America’s desire that all Afghan leaders embrace this “historic opportunity for peace and stability.”

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Washington to review US-Taliban deal, Sullivan tells Mohib 

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(Last Updated On: January 23, 2021)

US National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan spoke with Afghan National Security Advisor Hamdullah Mohib on Friday evening and said Washington intends to review the US-Taliban deal signed in February last year and to assess whether the Taliban is adhering to its commitments. 

In a statement issued by the White House following the discussion between the two NSAs, Sullivan said the US will support the peace process with “a robust and regional diplomatic effort, which will aim to help the two sides achieve a durable and just political settlement and permanent ceasefire”. 

Sullivan also made clear “the United States’ intention to review the February 2020 US-Taliban agreement, including to assess whether the Taliban was living up to its commitments to cut ties with terrorist groups, to reduce violence in Afghanistan and to engage in meaningful negotiations with the Afghan government and other stakeholders.”

According to the statement, Sullivan also expressed America’s desire that all Afghan leaders embrace this “historic opportunity for peace and stability.”

In addition, Sullivan and Mohib discussed the US’s support for protecting the gains made by Afghan women, girls, and minority groups as part of the peace process. 

Sullivan also “committed to consulting closely with the Afghan government, NATO allies, and regional partners regarding a collective strategy to support a stable, sovereign, and secure future for Afghanistan,” the statement read.

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Taliban should cut ties with Pakistan: Ghani

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(Last Updated On: January 22, 2021)

President Ashraf Ghani has called on the Taliban to cut ties with Pakistan.

Addressing a press conference on Thursday, Ghani stated that the Taliban should not have a safe haven in Pakistan either.

“One of the basic needs for peace in Afghanistan is that the Taliban should cut their ties with Pakistan. If they call themselves Afghans and want to be in Afghanistan; they should not have dual citizenships,” said Ghani.

Ghani also urged Pakistan to play its positive role in the ongoing talks in Doha.

“I urged PM of Pakistan to tell Taliban that there is no solution without a political settlement,” said Ghani.

The President has also criticized the interim government plan, emphasizing a democratic process for the power transfer.

Ghani stated that he will transfer power to the Taliban if they are elected by the people in the elections.

 “We hope for peace, but we are ready for every danger,” Ghani said.

This comes as the Afghan government peace negotiators are in Doha to discuss the agenda for the negotiations with the Taliban delegates.

Ghani, however, said that in the end, it is the people of Afghanistan who would decide the outcome of the negotiations.

Meanwhile, Shah Mehmood Qureshi, Pakistan’s foreign minister, on Thursday called on Joe Biden, the US president to follow up on the current Afghan peace process and US troops’ withdrawal from the country.

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