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Tuesday, July 27, 2021

Top US Special Rep. for Afghanistan meets with Qatar’s FM

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Kabul has been witnessing a series of escalations over the past week as fighting intensifies between Afghan forces and the Taliban.

Qatar’s Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al-Thani met with US Special Representative for Peace in Afghanistan Zalmay Khalilzad on Monday during his visit to the Gulf state.

“Relations of bilateral cooperation between the two countries were reviewed during the meeting, as well as the latest developments in the region, especially in Afghanistan,” Qatar’s foreign ministry [MOFA] said on Monday.

The Qatari diplomat also met with UN Secretary-General’s Personal Envoy on Afghanistan Jean Arnault on Sunday in a meeting that saw the two discuss current developments in the Afghan peace process.

On Saturday, the US Department of State said Khalilzad would be returning to Doha for the Afghan deadlocked peace talks in hopes of reaching a political settlement.

“In his travel, Ambassador Khalilzad will continue to engage in determined diplomacy and the pursuit of a peace agreement between the Islamic Republic and the Taliban,” said the department of state in a statement, stressing the urgency to reach a political agreement in Afghanistan.

Qatar has been facilitating the Afghan peace process since September last year, but talks have not made any visible progress since then, with tensions continuing to rise in the the Asian country.

US Special Rep. for Afghanistan in Qatar amid heightened tensions in Kabul

“The sooner the sides can agree to a negotiated settlement, the sooner Afghanistan and the region can reap the benefits of peace, including expanded regional connectivity, trade, and development,” added the statement.

Khalilzad departed the US on 9 July and is expected to make several stops in Pakistan and Uzbekistan, where he will be participating in an international conference hosted by the Uzbek government on regional connectivity.

The Washington official’s visit comes at a critical time, with the US withdrawing its forces from Afghanistan after two decades amid rising security concerns as the Taliban continues its territorial gains.

According to Reuters, the Taliban confirmed it gained control of 85% of Afghanistan territories. However, Afghan government officials dismissed the insurgent group’s claims, saying that it is part of its propaganda campaign.

On Tuesday, the UN’s refugee agency warned that more Afghans are likely to flee their homes due to the rising violence in the country, which is on the brink of yet another humanitarian crisis.

“This can be avoided. This should be avoided,” Babar Baloch, spokesman of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees [UNHCR], told a Geneva news briefing.

“A failure to reach a peace agreement in Afghanistan and stem the current violence will lead to further displacement within the country, as well as to neighbouring countries and beyond,” added Baloch.

The UNHCR also estimated that 270,000 Afghans had been newly internally displaced since January, raising the total number of Afghans forced from their homes to more than 3.5 million.

Furthermore, civilian casualties increased by 29% during the first quarter of this year compared with 2020.

An official from the World Health Organization said on Friday that health workers in Afghanistan are struggling to get medicine and supplies into the war-torn country as medical facilities have come under attack, with several workers fleeing the country.

The WHO’s regional emergencies director Rick Brennan said up to 18.4 million people in Afghanistan now require humanitarian assistance, including 3.1 million children at risk of acute malnutrition.

The US is now scheduled to remove all of its forces from Afghanistan by the end of August instead of the initial September 11 deadline announced by President Joe Biden in April this year.

Some 650 troops will remain in Kabul’s airport and to protect the US embassy in the country. Around 100 British troops will also remain in Afghanistan to support the American consulate.


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