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Wednesday, June 23, 2021

Taliban unveils three conditions to attend Istanbul talks: report

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Afghan media reported that the Taliban and Afghan government held a meeting in Doha on Sunday, indicating more positive signs amid a stalled peace process.

The Afghan Taliban will attend the postponed Istanbul peace conference based on three conditions, Voice of America [VOA] reported on Tuesday, citing a senior Taliban leader.

According to VOA, the three conditions stipulate that the conference must be short, the agenda should not include decision-making on critical issues, and the Taliban delegation must attend at a low-level. However, the Taliban official did not elaborate on the “critical issues” mentioned in the list of conditions.

“Our leadership has proposed that the Istanbul meeting should not be longer than three days,” the leader told VOA on the condition of anonymity.

The news was also confirmed by another senior Taliban official, according to the report.

The US-proposed Istanbul summit was initially scheduled to take place from April 24th until May 4th, but was postponed just days before it was set to kick off over the Taliban’s refusal to attend.

Afghan media reported last week that the Taliban is now all set to attend the Istanbul summit on the condition that the final outcome is achieved in Qatar.

Afghan media reported that the Taliban and the Afghan government also held a meeting in Qatar on Sunday, the second such meeting since May 13th, when officials discussed the resumption of the peace talks.

New Pakistan base

Meanwhile, reports also state that Pakistan’s efforts to support the Afghan peace process have faced attacks.

Former Afghan President Hamid Karzai told Germany’s Der Spiegel that “an external influence” is pinning Afghans against one another, adding that Pakistan is reportedly trying  to apply “strategic influence” through the Taliban in Afghanistan.

“The US confirmed this independently, telling us: Yes, the violence is coming from Pakistan, and yes, the Taliban’s sanctuaries are there. But instead of investigating the root cause of the violence and going after it, Washington started to fund Pakistan’s military,” said Karzai.

Read also: US to recommend ‘post-withdrawal plan’ to monitor Afghanistan

He also hinted that President Ashraf Ghani is planning to meet Taliban leader Mullah Hebatullah soon for the first time, while expressing hopes for the delayed Troika summit.

Furthermore, Afghan news outlet Ariana News [ATN] reported that US forces have started constructing a large military base across the “Durand Line” in Pakistan, which borders Paktia province in Afghanistan.

Paktia’s provincial council told ATN that “the base is under construction 8km from the Durand Line inside Pakistan and “supplies are being delivered via air and ground every day”. No official from any of the countries involved in the peace process confirmed the alleged construction.

This comes following reports of a possible post-withdrawal recommendation by US commander for the Middle East Gen. Frank McKenzie to allow Washington to monitor the situation in Afghanistan from afar.

The plan is is to be presented to Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin in early June.

McKenzie declined to provide details on the recommendations but said it will provide cost estimates to keep surveillance aircrafts over Afghanistan to track terrorist groups in Kabul as well as threats on the Afghan military, which has been dependent on America for maintenance and training.

“It’s time for the Afghan military to stand up and show that they can fight alone,” said McKenzie. “I think it’s going to be a very taxing time for them. I think certainly there is a path for them to preserve what they have now. The risk is high. I don’t want to minimise that.”

Meanwhile, the US Central Command [CENTCOM] announced on Tuesday that Washington has completed 16-to-25% of its troop withdrawal from Kabul, adding that 160 C-17 military cargo plane filled with the military’s material was sent out of the country while more than 10,000 pieces of equipment have been marked for destruction.

The US is set to completely withdraw its troops from Afghanistan on September 11th with no further conditions, instead of an initial May 1st deadline that was stipulated in a February agreement signed with the Taliban in Doha last year, prompting anger from the insurgent group which accused Washington of violating the 2020 accord.

US President Joe Biden’s pull out of the remaining 2,500 American troops, as well as other NATO forces, will mark the end of its longest fought war.

“Historic” talks between the Afghan government and the Taliban were launched in Doha in September, though the peace process remains ongoing.


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