Afghanistan’s First Vice President Amrullah Saleh said this week that if the Taliban backs out of peace talks it will be a “slap in the face” to the international community and to peace itself and that the Taliban will try to “use violence to get more concessions.”
He also said the United States, the European Union and NATO can not state the peace process is purely Afghan – not when it has been a global war and that any peace deal reached would be one of the hardest agreements in history.
In an interview broadcast by Al Arabiya, Saleh said that if the Taliban backs out of peace talks following the release of all prisoners, it will be a “slap in the face.”
“Should the Taliban find another excuse [to avoid peace talks], it will be a slap in the face to the international community who told us this is the last excuse, and it will be a slap in the face to peace itself,” said Saleh.
Saleh, who described himself as being “politically on the opposite side of the Taliban,” warned that the Taliban will try to “use violence to get more concessions.”
He said the Taliban will increase violence, put up more checkpoints on highways will “complicate the peace and if they make more excuses it will make it difficult for us” to enter into a deal with them.
“Making peace with the Taliban is neither surrendering to the Taliban nor demanding the Taliban surrender to us.”
“It’s bringing two ways of life under one national ceiling. It will be co-existence,” Saleh said.
“In my view, the Taliban are a distortional expression of Islam, they are a deviation in the body of Islam, they are a deviation in the body of the Afghan culture, they are a deviation and a deviated group in the context of our history. They don’t represent us. They don’t represent me, my family, my country, my community.
“But because of violence, they have become a reality,” he said.
He said they lack a political manifest and all they know “is a gun in their hand looking at your forehead. The moment they put down that gun, what other skill do they have to be used in society” he asked.
“Nothing!” Saleh said.
“Why should I forgive or forget that type of a group?”
But he pointed out that this does not mean he won’t embrace peace. “But I will always fly their crimes in their face. They are criminals”.
On a possible peace settlement, Saleh said it would have to ensure the safety of all Afghans, “respect for everyone, respect for diversity.”
“If I try to put a tie on the neck of the Taliban the peace process will fail. But if they try to put a turban on my head, it will also fail.”
“So the solution is a turban and a suit both under the same ceiling. That is how we look at the peace process. Any side trying to dominate will make it fail,” he said.
On US troops withdrawal, Saleh said the Afghan government would not “beg the West to stay” but added that it was in their interests to stay – in one form or another.
Running through the reasons he said it would be of benefit for the West to stay in Afghanistan “economic-wise or development-wise, diplomatically and politically, intelligence-wise and a foothold of military.”
He said if the West pulled out, the question that would then need to be asked would be “what is the use of NATO if they can’t resolve an issue in which they were so much invested for two decades.”
Saleh said that the West should also be asking themselves what type of peace do they want to see in Afghanistan in a “place they fought”.
He pointed out the war has never been purely Afghan and said “it’s not going to be a purely Afghan peace.”
He emphasized that the United States, the European Union and NATO can not state the peace process is purely Afghan.
“No! This is a global peace process, as it was a global war,” he stated.
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Pakistan’s peace envoy arrives in Kabul for talks
Pakistan’s ambassador to Kabul Mansoor Ahmad Khan said Sunday that a high-ranking delegation led by Pakistan’s Special Representative on Afghan Reconciliation arrived in Kabul for talks with Afghan officials.
“Muhammad Sadiq, Pakistan’s Special Representative on Afghan Reconciliation, arrived in Kabul this morning for discussions with Afghan officials on peace,” Khan tweeted.
During his visit Sadiq will also discuss security and related matters, the ambassador confirmed.
Sadiq’s visit comes just two weeks after a scheduled visit by another Pakistani delegation was canceled due to security threats.
Earlier this month, Pakistan’s Speaker of the House of Representatives, Asad Qaisar, and his accompanying delegation were forced to turn back to Islamabad after entering Afghan airspace following the reported discovery of explosive materials at the airport.
At the time, Qaisar’s flight was turned back after NATO warned they had found explosives on the runway at Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul city.
Qaisar had been scheduled to visit Kabul for three days.
According to officials at the time, the explosives had been planted on one of the runways years ago.
CENTCOM chief in midst of ‘detailed planning’ for counterterrorism ops
Carrying out airstrikes against terrorist hideouts in Afghanistan without a US troop presence in the country will be difficult but “not impossible”, the commander of US Central Command General Frank McKenzie said on Tuesday.
Speaking to the House Armed Services Committee, McKenzie said he is in the midst of “detailed planning” for options for so-called “over the horizon” forces, or forces positioned elsewhere in the region that could continue counterterrorism strikes in Afghanistan.
He said he plans to give Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin those options by the end of the month.
“If you leave Afghanistan and you want to go back in to conduct these kinds of operations, there are three things you need to do: you need to find the target, you need to fix the target, and you need to be able to finish the target,” McKenzie said.
“The first two require heavy intelligence support. If you’re out of the country, and you don’t have the ecosystem that we have there now, it will be harder to do that. It is not impossible to do that.”
McKenzie’s testimony comes almost a week after President Joe Biden announced he was withdrawing all US troops from Afghanistan and that they would all be home by September 11 – the 20th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks on the United States.
According to The Hill, Biden’s decision came despite repeated statements from US military officials that the Taliban was not yet upholding its end of a deal made during the Trump administration to reduce violence and break from al-Qaeda, as well as warnings about the potential for chaos in Afghanistan that could allow an al-Qaeda resurgence should US troops withdraw.
Meanwhile, McKenzie’s comments about the difficulty of intelligence gathering without a troop presence echo comments last week from CIA Director William Burns, who told senators the ability to collect intelligence on threats in Afghanistan will “diminish” with a US military withdrawal, the Hill reported.
On Tuesday, McKenzie also said he continues to have “grave doubts” about the Taliban’s reliability in upholding its commitments under the deal signed last year.
McKenzie declined to tell lawmakers how he advised Biden as the president deliberated the withdrawal, but said he had “multiple opportunities” to provide Biden with his perspective.
The Hill reported that speaking broadly about options to continue strikes once US troops leave, McKenzie said surveillance drones could be positioned in a place where they can reach Afghanistan “in a matter of minutes” or ”perhaps much further away.”
“We will look at all the countries in the region, our diplomats will reach out, and we’ll talk about places where we could base those resources,” he said.
“Some of them may be very far away, and then there would be a significant bill for those types of resources because you’d have to cycle a lot of them in and out. That is all doable, however.”
Right now, McKenzie added, the United States does not have any basing agreements with Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan or other countries surrounding Afghanistan.
McKenzie also said there are a “variety of ways” to strike targets, including long-range precision fire missiles, manned raids or manned aircraft.
“There are problems with all three of those options, but there’s also opportunities with all three of those options,” he said.
“I don’t want to make light of it. I don’t want to put on rose-colored glasses and say it’s going to be easy to do. I can tell you that the U.S. military can do just about anything. And we’re examining this problem with all of our resources right now to find a way to do it in the most intelligent, risk-free manner that we can.”
US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, Secretary of State Anthony Blinken, Director of National Intelligence Avril Haines and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Mark Milley are also scheduled to brief the full House and Senate behind closed doors later Tuesday on Biden’s plan for Afghanistan.
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