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Friday, December 3, 2021

Former Afghan VP demands release of peace talks tapes to counter US ‘propaganda’


The US has faced criticism for its exit from Afghanistan.

Former Afghan Vice President Amrullah Saleh asked runaway President Ashraf Ghani on Tuesday to release tapes of his conversation with previous US envoy Zalmay Khalilzad, Khaama Press reported on Tuesday.

This came after US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said he was on the phone with Ghani a day before the collapse of the former administration in Afghanistan, pressing him to agree on a power-transfer plan that would see a government led by the Taliban and includes all aspects of Afghan society.

“He [Ghani] told me on the phone he was prepared to do that, but if the Taliban wouldn’t go along, he was ready to fight to the death. And the very next day, he fled Afghanistan,” Blinken told CBS News on Sunday.

The former vice president responded to the comments on Twitter by saying that Ghani must release the tapes in order to counter “propaganda” against him.

“I call on Ashraf Ghani to release tapes (esp Jul/Aug) of the conversations with Khalilzad & other relevant foreign diplomats on peace process to counter the growing propaganda that it was & is all the Afghan fault. I know these tapes exist & hope you have them,” said Saleh.

Over the past few years, Qatar has been hosting the peace process to mediate between the Taliban and the US on one hand, and the former Afghan government and the militants on the other.

In February last year, under Khalilzad, the US and the Taliban signed a “historic” accord that set 1 May 2021 as the deadline for the complete withdrawal of foreign forces.

Under the agreement, the troop pull out was set to be conducted on the condition that the Taliban halts its support for terrorist organisations. The accord also stipulated the release of 5,000 Taliban fighters in exchange for 1,000 Afghan government prisoners held by the group.

Khalilzad, who stepped down last month, received criticism in Afghanistan from those who believe the agreement paved the way for the collapse of the former Afghan administration.

Intra-Afghan talks also took place in September last year, bringing the Taliban and Afghan government to the negotiating table. However, these stalled amid rising tensions between the warring factions.

Taliban appoints envoy to handle western embassies in Doha: Reuters

Nevertheless, negotiations went on in July and August in Doha between the former government and the Taliban.

Both rounds of talks led to no outcome due to the Taliban’s rapid territorial gains in Afghanistan at the time. The takeover exacerbated as Troika talks were held from 10-12 August – three days before the downfall of the former government.

Last month, Qatar’s Special Envoy of the Minister of Foreign Affairs for Counterterrorism and Mediation in Conflict Resolution Mutlaq bin Majed Al Qahtani said intra-Afghan talks in Doha would have continued if Ghani did not leave the country.

“The world was caught by surprise when the former president of Afghanistan fled the country,” Al Qahtani said at the Global Security Forum [GSF].

Ghani fled as the Taliban encircled Kabul on 15 August after rapidly capturing several provincial territories. Reports at the time claimed he had left on a flight to Tajikstan before then moving to the United Arab Emirates with “tonnes of cash”.

US criticism

US President Joe Biden’s announcement to change the troop withdrawal deadline in April this year has been blamed for the escalations in the country. Experts believe this provided no incentive for the Taliban to continue talks.

The US has come under criticism from the international community for its 20-year invasion of Afghanistan that brought little change to the country. This was further exacerbated with a hasty exit that was followed by more scenes of instability and a Taliban takeover.

The power grab in August triggered thousands to flock to the airport in a desperate attempt to flee. Witnesses saw US forces shooting into the air to disperse Afghans trying to enter Hamid Karzai International Airport.

As a strategic ally and the host of a Taliban political office, Qatar found itself at the centre of diplomatic and humanitarian efforts to facilitate negotiations and evacuations from Afghanistan.

Doha managed to safely evacuate more than 70,000 Afghans and foreigners while continuing to hold talks between world powers and the Taliban to achieve peace and stability.

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