every step should be measured

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editorial

afghanistan times

june 21, 2020

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The progress of the peace process in Afganistan has been promising recently.  Thousands of prisoners have been released by the Afghan government and the Taliban, a move that contributes somewhat to the trust-building between the warring sides. Reports of the possible launch of intra-Afghan talks by the end of June are circulating in the media, with Doha of Qatar having been finalized and agreed upon by the sides as the venue for the all-Afghan negotiations.  In a recent development, head of U.S. Central Command, Gen. Kenneth McKenzie, informed that Washington has reduced its troops number to 8,600 in Afghanistan.  This measure marks the fulfilment of the first phase pullout obligation under the U.S.~Taliban agreement signed in February this year.  All these steps gradually build up and advance the peace process.  As the U.S.~Taliban peace pact also calls for the full withdrawal of the U.S. military from the country by May 2021, it is based on some conditions, including severing ties with terrorist groups.  McKenzie referred to this provision, saying it was an “aspirational” commitment, but also conditional:  “Conditions would have to be met that satisfy us that attacks against our homeland are not going to be generated from Afghanistan.”  Meanwhile, it wasn’t long before the Taliban renewed their commitmet to honor the peace pact, saying Afghanistan wouldn’t be used against anyone.  “They should not be concerned,” said the group’s spokesman.  Although the small steps towards peace are significant, the conditions-based approach to withdrawal and peace in Afghanistan so far is laudable. This is as there are concerns that this approach is just a pretext.  There are already reports that the Trump administration is mulling over at a range of options to pull out all of its troops from Afghanistan, most likely at an early date.  The haste in this regard stems from the fact that President Trump is targeting this November, when the U.S. presidential election is scheduled, to present the bringing home of soldiers as an achievment to the public and thus secure votes.  Therefore, the only concern crossing Afghans’ minds is that such pretexts of conditions-based approach are not focused on U.S. interests alone.  To put it clearly, some believe that there is a high probability that the Trump administration might withdraw before the scheduled date and after the election is conducted, it would use the card of the terrorism to re-deploy some troops into Afghanistan.  If the country really wants to extricate itself from Afghanistan, peace is the only face-saving way to achieve that end.  And if not, pretexts of conditions are there to make the withdrawal ambiguous and open-ended.  Thus, every step taken in this regard should be measured and deliberate in order to avoid jeopardizing the whole peace process and the progress made so far.  The worst-case scenario could be making peace a means to secure U.S. interests and ignore those of Afghanistan.

peace talks postponed by taliban

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Reporting by Abdul Qadir Sediqi & Rupam Jain

Editing by Darren Schuettler

Reuters

April 18, 2019

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KABUL (Reuters) – A meeting between the Taliban and Afghan politicians and civil society aimed at ending more than 17 years of war in Afghanistan has been postponed, officials and diplomats said on Thursday, citing Taliban objections to the size of the Afghan delegation.

The talks were set to begin on Friday in Doha, but a senior government official in Kabul said “the gathering has been called off for now and details were being reworked.”

Afghan delegates scheduled to fly to the Qatari capital on Thursday were told the trip was postponed and new dates were being discussed, a western diplomat in Kabul said.

“The government will have to change the composition of the delegation to make this meeting happen,” the diplomat said on condition of anonymity.

Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said leaders of the hardline Islamist group were uncomfortable with the size of the Afghan delegation and its composition.

“Presence of some participants was completely against the list of what was agreed upon,” Mujahid told Reuters over phone, adding that the delegation included Afghans working for the government.

The Taliban have repeatedly refused to meet President Ashraf Ghani’s government, which they call a puppet regime, but have held several rounds of peace talks with U.S. officials.

Ghani said Wednesday the 250-member Afghan delegation included some government officials attending in a personal capacity. But the group did not include some of the most powerful figures in Afghan politics, who are reluctant to join forces with Ghani ahead of presidential elections due in September.

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https://www.reuters.com/article/us-afghanistan-taliban/peace-talks-postponed-as-taliban-objects-to-size-of-afghan-delegation-idUSKCN1RU0W2

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taliban face u.s. at peace talks

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by Mujib Mashal

New York Times

March 26, 2019

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DOHA, Qatar — When the United States invaded Afghanistan in 2001 and toppled the Taliban government, even those who surrendered were treated as terrorists: handcuffed, hooded and shipped to the American detention camp in Guantánamo Bay, Cuba.

Now, in a stark demonstration of the twists and contradictions of the long American involvement in Afghanistan, five of those men are sitting across a negotiating table from their former captors, part of the Taliban team discussing the terms of an American troop withdrawal.

“During our time in Guantánamo, the feeling was with us that we had been brought there unjustly and that we would be freed,” said one of the former detainees, Mullah Khairullah Khairkhwa. “But it never occurred to me that one day there would be negotiations with them, and I would be sitting there with them on one side and us on the other.”

The five senior Taliban officials were held at Guantánamo for 13 years before catching a lucky break in 2014. They were exchanged for Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, the only known American service member to be held by the insurgents as a prisoner of war.

In recent months, as the Americans and militants took up intense negotiations to try to end the conflict in Afghanistan, the Taliban leadership made a point of including the former prisoners. Each day during the recent round of talks in Doha, Qatar, the five men sat face to face with American diplomats and generals.

During days of slow and at times frustrated discussions at the most recent session, which ended on March 12, it was the Taliban side that was often more emotional. Some gave impassioned speeches about how vital it was that the Americans completely leave Afghanistan in as little as six months.

The usual response from the American side, led by senior envoy Zalmay Khalilzad, was to give detailed technical explanations about why withdrawing was complex and needed to be slower, perhaps over years.

But other than Mullah Khairkhwa, the former detainees seemed more reluctant to speak, officials involved in the talks said. When they did address the group, they seemed less harsh or strident than some of the other Taliban negotiators, perhaps mellowed by years of hardship or wary that their freedom could be fragile. Over the past few years, they have stayed in Doha and have been reunited with their families, but remain under watch by the Qatari authorities at the request of the United States.

The five former Guantánamo detainees had varying roles during the Taliban government reign. Mullah Khairkhwa served as a governor and acting minister of interior. Abdul Haq Wasiq was deputy minister of intelligence.

Perhaps the most infamous figure in the group is Mullah Fazel Mazloom, a front-line commander who was also chief of the Taliban army. While accusations of human rights abuses by the others have generally remained vague, there seems to be considerably more evidence against Mullah Mazloom, who is accused of mass killings and scorched-earth brutality.

During an initial tribunal hearing at Guantánamo — The New York Times obtained the transcript via the Freedom of Information Act — Mullah Mazloom (his last name means “meek”) showed no remorse.

“There is a 25-year war person to person, village by village, city by city, province by province, and tribe against tribe,” he told the tribunal. “If you think this is a crime, then every person in Afghanistan should be in prison.”

Still, he insisted: “I never fought against the new government. I never fought against America.”

In their introductions around the table as negotiations started last month, the five men held up their detention at Guantánamo as the most important part of their identity.

“In important moments like this, my own personal troubles don’t come to mind,” Mullah Khairkhwa said in the interview, after the negotiations had ended. “I am really not thinking about who is sitting across from me and what they had done to me.”

“What is important is what we are talking about,” he said, “and what is in it for our interests, for our goal and for our country.”

The men’s Guantánamo files include several notations about uncooperative behavior and instigations, including throwing milk at guards and tearing up their mattresses in protest.

Listed in Mullah Khairkhwa’s record, along with making disruptive noises or refusing to eat or shower at times, is this: trying to kill himself and urging others to kill themselves. But in his tribunal hearing, Mr. Khairkhwa denied having done so.

“There was no spoon in my meal, so I asked the guard for a spoon,” Mullah Khairkhwa said, according to the transcript. “Other detainees also shouted that they did not have spoons, either. The sergeant said he was sorry and from orders of his boss he could not provide me with a spoon.”

“When I asked the reason,” Mullah Khairkhwa added, “he said that I was trying to kill myself and encourage others to do the same.”

Most of the men were detained and sent to Guantánamo after they had surrendered — or even after they had started cooperating with the leadership of the new government the United States had installed in Afghanistan.

At the time of his arrest, Mullah Khairkhwa had retreated to private life in his family’s home village, and had reached out to President Hamid Karzai, who came to power in the wake of the American invasion.

Mullah Khairkhwa, according to his Guantánamo documents, was accused of narcotics trafficking and of closely associating with Osama bin Laden’s men in Al Qaeda. He denied both accusations in his hearings.

The former Taliban government deputy intelligence chief, Mr. Wasiq, had come to a meeting with C.I.A. operatives to discuss cooperation with American and Afghan officials. But he and some of his associates who had come along were bound and taken away, with at least one of them rolled up in a carpet.

Mullah Mazloom had surrendered to Gen. Abdul Rashid Dostum, an Uzbek strongman in northern Afghanistan whose militia allied with American Special Operations forces. General Dostum sent thousands of Mullam Mazloom’s men to an overcrowded prison, and his militia killed hundreds — if not thousands — of those foot soldiers after an insurrection in the prison.

Mullah Mazloom and some others were eventually turned over to the Americans.

A timeline for an American withdrawal from Afghanistan has been a stubborn sticking point during the long days of talks. But an even more frustrating issue has been how to define who is a terrorist and who is not. That definition is central as the United States has tried to seek assurances from the Taliban that Afghan territory will not again be used as a staging ground for terrorist attacks against the United States and its allies.

When they were toppled and hunted down, the Taliban were an oppressive regime, denying citizens basic rights, including keeping women and girls out of school and behind house walls. In the group’s 18-year insurgency since, they have resorted to acts of terrorism like truck bombings that have caused mass civilian casualties.

But now that the United States’ priority has shifted to withdrawal, and out of the pragmatic need to negotiate with the Taliban, American envoys have turned to parsing words to find some definition of terrorism they can hold in common with the Taliban.

In some of the sessions sitting across the table from the former Guantánamo detainees was Gen. Austin S. Miller, the commander of the American and NATO forces in Afghanistan, in his four-star uniform. Last October, General Miller narrowly escaped death in an attack by a Taliban infiltrator that killed a prominent Afghan security chief, Gen. Abdul Raziq, who had been walking beside him in a heavily guarded compound in Kandahar Province.

According to several officials on both sides who knew details of the talks, General Miller told the Taliban that he respected them as fighters, but that the war needed to end. He also evoked a mutual need to fight the terrorism of the Islamic State.

“We could keep fighting, keep killing each other,” General Miller was quoted as saying. “Or, together, we could kill ISIS.”

Mullah Khairkhwa said that even though the two sides had not been able to reach a final agreement this time, the two sides shared a common interest, at least, in ending the war.

“It’s been a long war, with lots of casualties and destruction and loss,” he said. “What gives me hope is that both teams are taking the issue seriously. On every issue, the discussions are serious, and it gives me hope that we will find a way out — as long as there are not spoilers to ruin it.”

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editor

Rawclyde

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Peace In Afghanistan

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Voice of Jihad

Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan

July 2015

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Peace is a natural demand of every human being, the very secret behind prosperity and development. The well-being of a nation lies in peace. Peace is a need for a society as water is for a fish. Prior to anything our beloved country needs durable peace. No doubt, our peace loving nation is craving for peace.

To demand peace is easy. Every person can raise voice for peace but peace will only be achieved and established in light of ground realities and through consideration of views and opinions of the people. It cannot be achieved by mere assertions. Rather it needs practical steps like removal of hurdles in the way of peace, establishment of an atmosphere of confidence and trust and initiation of a wise process.

Unfortunately, the current situation in our beloved country is heading towards use of force instead of peace advancement. Despite repeated promises, the invaders have not withdrawn from the battle field. Night raids and blind bombardments are still continuing. The officials of Kabul Administration are using peace for their own political objectives and propaganda. It shows that they have no commitment for peace because despite their hues and cries for peace they launched military operations in different parts of the country in severe cold weather last year. They had destroyed homes and gardens of common people and these destructive operations are still continuing. These activities on the part of the invaders and the Kabul administration have paved the way for continuation of the war.

Following points should be considered for peace.

1. Commitment and sincerity are the foremost elements for the peace process. A peace process which is also an Islamic obligation should not be used as a tool for deception, cunning and accusation of the opposite side. First of all those who want peace and working in the peace process should fear Allah, the Almighty. They should feel responsibility and should not play with the future of the oppressed nation.

2. Peace requires deep thoughts and discussions. A minor mistake in peace process could bring in enormous problems to our nation.

3. Peace requires serious moves based on realities otherwise it will deteriorate the peace process and pave the way for prolongation of war. Therefore, all the steps should be taken very carefully.

4. An important point in a peace process is the realization of the sentiments of opposite side. Peace should not be dubbed as surrender. Those who desire peace should not use it as an instrument of propaganda.

Islamic Emirate has repeatedly stated its commitment for a sustainable peace and has made efforts in this regards. As such, has put forward sensible strategy regarding peace process in different official and unofficial meetings. The end of occupation and establishment of an Islamic system has been determined as the primary goals of their legitimate struggle and sacred Jihad. Like in the past, the Islamic Emirate wants peace today and will strive for it in future as well. But the peace process should have some indications of commitment, sincerity and transparency. Ground realities should be taken into account because following a mirage in a dry desert has no meaning.

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Afghan Gov’t Mustering 2nd Taliban Talk

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Xinhua Chinese Newspaper

Kabul

July 22, 2015

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The Afghan government has been preparing for the second round of peace talks with the Taliban, reported a local newspaper on Wednesday.

“Preparations are now underway for the second round of peace negotiation talks with the Taliban,” Daily Outlook Afghanistan quoted Shahzada Shahid, Afghan High Peace Council (HPC) spokesman, as saying.

The first face-to-face talks between a delegation of the Afghan government and Taliban representatives took place in Pakistan earlier this month and both sides agreed to hold a second round of talks by the end of this month.

The peace body has appointed an executive committee for purpose of finalizing the agenda of the upcoming meeting in close consultation with Afghan President Mohammad Ashraf Ghani, Chief Executive Officer Dr. Abdullah Abdullah, political figures and other government leaders, Shahid said in the report.

The Afghan government set up a 70-member HPC and launched the peace and reconciliation process in 2010 to encourage Taliban militant group to disarm and give up militancy against the government.

However, the hope for peace in the country has been revived after Mullah Mohammad Omar, the leader of the Taliban, announced this month his group’s readiness to join the peace dialogue with the Afghan government.

Before the first meeting between the Taliban and the government team in Pakistan, President Ghani said that the preliminary peace negotiations will discuss three main issues, including ways to turn the meeting into a continuous process, undertaking confidence building measures and preparing a list of important issues to be put on the agenda of the next round of peace negotiations, according to media reports.

Among other topics, the ceasefire might have been the main issue of the upcoming negotiations while the exact location of the talks still remained unknown.

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http://news.xinhuanet.com/english/2015-07/22/c_134436589.htm

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