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China offers to host Afghan-Taliban peace talks

Beijing: China has offered to host peace talks between the Afghan government and the Taliban in the wake of US troops starting their withdrawal from Afghanistan after a nearly two-decades-long stay.

Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi, who in the last two days held telephone talks with his Pakistani and Afghan counterparts, has said that China will back the Afghan government headed by Ashraf Ghani in playing a leading role, news reports said.

This is seen as significant given that China’s close ally Pakistan is seen as the main backer of the Taliban which has mounted attacks on Afghan government troops in a bid to secure itself a strong hand in any negotiations.

The offer to facilitate peace talks between the Kabul government and the Taliban was made during Wang’s phone talks with his Afghan counterpart Mohammad Haneef Atmar, according to Afghan news outlets.

China is concerned that the US pullout could lead to the regrouping of Uyghur Muslim militants in Afghanistan. Uyghurs live in Xinjiang province that shares borders with China.

In a comment that may not go down well with the Taliban, Wang expressed his hope that Afghanistan’s future leadership will pursue a moderate Muslim policy, promote a foreign policy of peace, maintain friendship with neighboring countries, and firmly combat all forms of terrorism, Xinhua said.

Wang also said that the eight-member Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), of which India and Pakistan are members, should pay more attention to the situation with Afghanistan’s neighbors strengthening communication, speaking in one voice and taking coordinated action.

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US to withdraw troops from Afghanistan by September 11

Kabul: The US will begin its drawdown of troops in Afghanistan before May 1 and complete the process before September 11, according to a senior US administration official. There are between 2,500 and 3,500 US troops in Afghanistan at present.

“We will begin an orderly draw-down of the remaining forces before May 1st and plan to have all US troops out of the country before the 20th anniversary of 9/11,” the official told reporters. The process could be completed “well in advance” of the September deadline, the official said.

The US and its NATO allies had signed a deal with the Taliban in February last year to withdraw their troops from Afghanistan if the Taliban met certain preconditions, including a cessation of violence (the Taliban has repeatedly attacked on civilians and Afghan security forces since) and not turning the country into a haven for terrorist groups, particularly al-Qaeda.

The US considers the re-emergence of al-Qaeda in the region after the draw-down of troops a “genuine threat” according to the official, who said the threat will be dealt with “directly” and by holding the Taliban accountable.

Meanwhile, diplomatic efforts to arrive at an intra-Afghan settlement are under way. Istanbul will host talks between the Taliban and the Afghan government between April 24 and May 4.


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Taliban not ready to meet Afghan govt in Turkey

Islamabad: The Taliban has said that it won’t attend a peace conference tentatively planned for later this week in Turkey, putting US efforts to get a peace plan anytime soon in jeopardy.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken previously said he wanted to see a peace agreement between Afghanistan’s warring sides finalized at a conference hosted by Turkey and attended by top officials from both the Taliban and the Afghan government.

Afghan government, US and Turkish officials had said they intended to begin the conference on April 16. It was to last 10 days.

No new date for the Turkey conference was set but time is running out on a May 1 deadline for the withdrawal of US and NATO troops from Afghanistan in keeping with a deal the Trump administration made with the Taliban more than a year ago.

President Joe Biden has said he is committed to ending America’s longest war but the US is reportedly looking for a three- to six-month extension.

Until now the Taliban have refused, warning of “consequences” if Washington reneges on the deal and the withdrawal timeline.

Last month, Blinken gave both the Taliban and the Afghan government an eight-page proposed peace plan, which they were to discuss, revise and review and come to Turkey ready to cobble together an agreement.

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, who has grown increasingly isolated in Kabul as his political opponents accuse him of clinging to power, offered an alternative to Blinken’s proposal. Ghani supported an interim government that he would head until elections could be held within months.

The Taliban have made it clear they would not accept a government headed by Ghani, but they have yet to offer an alternative to Binken’s proposal.

Blinken announced the Turkey meeting in a sharply worded letter to Ghani and other Afghan leaders. In that letter Blinken warned that a US withdrawal without a political settlement would leave Ghani’s government vulnerable to Taliban gains. (News 95.7)

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Afghan president proposes three-phase peace roadmap: Report

Kabul: Afghan President Ashraf Ghani has drawn up a new proposal for peace with the Taliban ahead of an international conference aimed at jump-starting faltering talks between the two warring sides, official sources said.

It comes after the US — backed by Russia and other stakeholders — said in its own leaked proposal that it wants to see some form of transitional government involving the Taliban, although Ghani has insisted leaders can only be chosen at the ballot box.

According to official sources, Ghani intends to present his three-stage plan at a UN-backed conference in Turkey to be attended by the US, Russia and other key regional countries. A date for the event has not been finalized.

The US is just weeks away from a May 1 deadline to withdraw all foreign troops from Afghanistan as part of a deal agreed with the hardline group last year — a date US President Joe Biden has said will be tough to meet.

Ghani’s three-stage proposal includes reaching a political settlement with the Taliban and announcing an internationally monitored ceasefire.

He then proposes holding an early presidential election in which the Taliban could take part to form a “government of peace”. (The Hindu)

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Biden admin presents draft peace pact for warring Afghan sides

New Delhi: A draft peace agreement proposed by the US to “jump-start” the peace talks in Afghanistan envisages the formation of a transitional government with the Taliban and includes provisions to prevent terror-related activities on Afghan soil.

The draft “Afghanistan Peace Agreement” is the second key document related to the Biden administration’s efforts to push the peace process in Afghanistan that has leaked in recent days, following US secretary of state Antony Blinken’s letter to President Ashraf Ghani on the next steps envisaged by Washington.

The draft agreement includes three elements – guiding principles for a new constitution and a new state structure; terms for a transitional government involving the Taliban; and terms for a permanent ceasefire. It includes “options for power-sharing” to facilitate a settlement.

Blinken’s letter to Ghani included four elements – asking the UN to convene a meeting of India, Russia, China, Pakistan, Iran and the US to discuss a unified approach on Afghanistan, asking Turkey to convene a meeting of the Afghan side and the Taliban, getting the Afghan side and the Taliban to agree on ways to speed up discussions on a settlement, and encouraging Afghan leaders to consider a “new, inclusive government”.

There was no official word from the Indian side, but people familiar with developments said New Delhi will stick to its position on backing an Afghan-led, Afghan-owned and Afghan-controlled process. India wants any eventual outcome to ensure that Afghan soil isn’t used for terror activities, the people said.

The US proposal states that a “transitional peace government of Afghanistan” will be formed once the peace agreement is signed and this formation will exist until it “transfers power to a permanent government following the adoption of a new constitution and national elections”.

Sameer Patil, fellow for international security studies at Gateway House, said, “It is a fraught process, but it is also the best possible solution in the available circumstances. There is no real possibility of taking weapons away from the Taliban, and one can look at buying their loyalty to bring them into the mainstream. Variations of this solution have been paraded by other US administrations, but there really is no other solution without economic development,” Patil said. (Hindustan Times)

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Taliban not committed to peace: Afghan NSA

Kabul: Afghan National Security Advisor (NSA) Hamdullah Mohib claimed that the Taliban has no intention towards being committed to the country’s peace process, adding that the militant group has totally abandoned the negotiations in Doha, the media reported.

“Taliban’s intention is clear. Taliban do not want peace, their bosses won’t allow them to make peace. It is a fact that they want permanent instability in Afghanistan,” Khaama Press quoted Mohib as saying at a press conference.

According to Mohib, the Taliban are not prepared to reduce the level of the violence in the war-torn country.

“The Taliban want to destroy Afghanistan, they just want complete power and nothing else.

“If the Taliban do not want peace, we must defend our people. President (Ashraf) Ghani is committed to peace. But the Taliban are the main obstacle to the peace process.

“We will not allow them to collapse the system and carry out their nefarious goals here,” the NSA added.

Also addressing the press conference, Interior Minister Massoud Andarabi claimed that the Taliban leadership is in Doha and were not aware of the war situation in Afghanistan.

“They are killing Afghans illegitimately,” he added.

Deputy Defense Mnister Shah Mahmood Miakhel added at the briefing that “if the Taliban want war we are ready”, Khaama Press reported.

The peace negotiations between the Afghan Republic and the Taliban have stalled over the last 20 days and violence has also remained high in the country, TOLO News said in a report.

The Ministry of Defense reported fighting between the government forces and the Taliban in at least 20 provinces in 24 hours.

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EU in Afghanistan calls for ‘end to violence’

Kabul: The European Union’s (EU) special envoy to Afghanistan, Roland Kobia, has called for an immediate end to violence in the war-torn country, followed by a ceasefire.

Taking to Twitter, Kobia said: “If some parties don’t like the term «ceasefire», call it truce, cessation of hostilities, moratorium, silent period. Whatever the semantics until it stops rivers of Afghan blood. You have an opportunity with new US administration to show you -really- want peace. Now”.

Taliban violence has “increased” in Afghanistan despite signing of the landmark peace deal with the US last year, security agencies have said, adding that the group still maintains ties with the Al Qaeda terror group.

Violent incidents mostly in the shape of target killing has been on rise over the past couple of months amid the tough and slow peace dialogue between negotiating teams of the Afghan government and Taliban group in Doha.

The second round of intra-Afghan talks after more than three weeks of break resumed on January 6 without significant progress, reports Xinhua news agency.

According to local media reports, no official dialogue has been held between the two sides over the past 10 days.

Taliban has demanded the resignation of the Afghan president from power as precondition for ceasefire and making peace.

A member of Taliban negotiating team Sher Mohammad Abas Stanikzai, according to media reports, has said that the armed group was ready “to make peace if Ashraf Ghani resigns” from power.

President Ghani has rejected the demand, saying that he is not the obstacle to peace rather he is a champion for peace in Afghanistan.

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Nepal politics, Nepal Parliament, K.P. Sharma Oli, Bidya Devi Bhandari, Nepal Communist Party

Kabul: Afghan President Ashraf Ghani has invited the Taliban to Kandahar province to engage in a discussion for bringing peace to the war-torn country, the media reported.

Addressing an event held in the province, the president said that if the Taliban is willing to bring peace, they can come to Kandahar to hold talks with the negotiating team of the Afghanistan government, TOLO News reported.

Ghani said that the Afghan people will not allow a further release of Taliban prisoners, as the group has not reduced violence.

“Now that they (Taliban) ask for the release of another 2,000 (prisoners), will you (people) allow their release? No. We saw that the bloodshed did not stop. They must stop the bloodshed so we can talk,” the president said.

Referring to the recent attacks by the Taliban in various parts of Kandahar, Ghani pledged that the Afghan security forces will restore security for the people in the province.

According to the Afghan leader, the militant group last year destroyed 16 per cent of the nation’s wealth in the ongoing war.

The Kabul team returned from Doha, where the peace talks took place since September 12.

The Taliban has opposed Ghani’s call to hold the next round of the peace negotiations in Afghanistan, saying the request signals fear on the country’s side.

The two sides also confirmed to have exchanged their lists about the agenda of the peace talks and that the next phase of the discussions will begin on January 5, 2021.

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Protest in Afghanistan against Imran Khan’s visit

Kabul: Terming Pakistan a “producer, sponsor and exporter of terrorism”, scores of people took to the streets of Kabul recently to protest against Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan’s maiden visit to Afghanistan.

The demonstrators were seen carrying banners and pamphlets denouncing Pakistan’s “hypocritic policy”. They raised slogans against Pakistan and Khan.

Imran Khan arrived in Kabul on Nov 19 on his first official visit to meet with President Ashraf Ghani and other Afghan leaders to discuss the Afghan peace process and bilateral ties.

His visit comes at a time when the country is witnessing an escalation of violence despite ongoing talks between the Afghan government and Taliban in Doha.

Pakistan has been long blamed for abetting terrorists and creating instability in the war-torn nation. Though Islamabad has claimed that it supports peace in Afghanistan, experts believe Pakistan has backed the Taliban which has killed thousands of innocent civilians.

Experts have accused Pakistan of giving asylum to terrorists hiding from Afghan forces and sending fighters to support the Taliban.

According to a report by the United Nations Security Council (UNSC), around 6,500 Pakistan terrorists are operating in Afghanistan most of them belonging to the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP).

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