Taliban have ‘no excuse’ to continue war after Ghani’s peace overture, says Pakistan

Gen. Nasir Khan Janjua
Updated 19 March 2018
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Taliban have ‘no excuse’ to continue war after Ghani’s peace overture, says Pakistan

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan’s top security adviser has said Afghan Taliban insurgents “do not have any excuse” to continue war after President Ashraf Ghani’s proposals to recognize the Taliban as a political party, allow them open an office in Kabul, issue passports to their members and remove the names of senior commanders from the UN terrorist blacklists.
The Taliban have not issued any formal reaction to President Ghani’s latest initiative but a Taliban political official has told Arab News the Afghan leader has “skipped” the real issue — foreign invasion — in his address to the “Kabul Process” meeting in the Afghan capital on Feb. 28.
Pakistan National Security Adviser (NSA) Nasir Khan Janjua, who wrapped up his day-long visit to Kabul on Saturday evening, said on his return on Sunday that he has expressed complete support for the long-awaited peace offer.
Janjua’s office said he had elaborate and successful meetings with President Ashraf Ghani, Chief Executive Dr. Abdullah Abdullah, his counterpart Haneef Atmar, minister of defense, and the intelligence chief.
Abdullah’s office quoted the Pakistani NSA as saying: “The Taliban have no excuse to continue war” after what he described as unprecedented peace efforts.
In the statement on his return, Janjua termed the peace offer as “a light on the other side of the tunnel in a war which had become rather perpetual.”
The Taliban declined to offer any comments on Pakistan’s NSA remarks.
Janjua said the Afghan president “desired a roadmap to be prepared for a comprehensive engagement with Pakistan to carry the relationship further with a leap of faith.”
He confirmed President Ghani also handed over the letter of invitation to him for the Prime Minister of Pakistan and expected him to visit as soon as possible.
Analysts in Pakistan believe the main purpose of the NSA talks in Kabul was to “reduce mistrust” between the two countries.
Imtiaz Gul, head of the Center for Research and Security Studies in Islamabad, says the visit is a major confidence-building measure that could “open the way for bilateral dialogue.”
“The visit will also underline Pakistan’s push on the Taliban to come to the negotiations table,” Gul told Arab News.
Defense analyst Lt. Gen Amjad Shoaib called for more high-level interaction between the two countries which will help to create understanding on security issues. He termed the NSA visit as a major confidence-building measure and that there is a need for high-level exchanges.
“There is currently lack of bilateral interaction. Both countries should enhance intelligence sharing and Afghanistan should give up its opposition to the border management and fencing,” Gen. Amjad told Arab News on Sunday.
It is believed that Pakistan is under pressure from the US to act against the Afghan Taliban and its affiliate the Haqqani Network, and the same demand was repeated during the meeting between Prime Minister Abbasi and US Vice President Mike Pence in Washington on Friday.
“Pence reiterated President Trump’s request that the Government of Pakistan must do more to address the continued presence of the Taliban, the Haqqani Network, and other terrorist groups operating in their country,” a White House statement said after the meeting.
“The vice president stated that US efforts to eliminate terrorist groups who threaten US security and the stability of the region will continue and noted that Pakistan could and should work more closely with the United States,” the statement said.


French police prepare for fifth wave of yellow vest protests

Updated 14 December 2018
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French police prepare for fifth wave of yellow vest protests

PARIS: France will deploy tens of thousands of police nationwide and around 8,000 in Paris on Saturday to handle a fifth weekend of ‘yellow vest’ protests, although the movement appears to be losing steam after concessions by President Emmanuel Macron.
The chief of police in Paris said concerns remained about violent groups infiltrating the protests. Anti-riot officers will protect landmarks such as the Arc de Triomphe and prevent people getting close to the presidential palace.
“We need to be prepared for worst-case scenarios,” police chief Michel Delpuech told RTL radio.
He expected businesses in the capital to be less affected this weekend after heavy disruption over the past three weeks when major stores shut, hotels suffered cancelations and tourists stayed away during the usually busy run-up to Christmas.
Nicknamed “Acte V” of the protests, the yellow vest demonstrators will take to the streets this weekend as France recovers from an unrelated attack on a Christmas market in the eastern city of Strasbourg on Tuesday, when a gunman shot and killed three people and wounded several others.
Hundreds of police officers were redeployed to Strasbourg to search for the gunman, who was shot dead in an exchange of fire on Thursday evening.
Interior Minister Christophe Castaner said it was time for the yellow vests to scale down their protests and accept they had achieved their aims. Police officers also deserved a break, he added.
“I’d rather have the police force doing their real job, chasing criminals and combating the terrorism threat, instead of securing roundabouts where a few thousand people keep a lot of police busy,” he said.
TOLL ON THE ECONOMY
Attractions such as the Louvre museum and Opera Garnier will be open this weekend, as will luxury department stores like Galeries Lafayette and Printemps. Last Saturday they were closed as thousands of sometimes violent protesters tore through the city. The previous weekend the Arc de Triomphe was vandalized, cars were overturned and torched and businesses smashed up.
The protests have taken a toll on the economy, with output in the last quarter of the year set to be half initial projections, while Macron’s concessions are likely to push the budget deficit above an EU agreed limit.
The yellow vest movement, which began as a protest against fuel taxes and then grew into an anti-Macron alliance, appears to have calmed since the president announced a series of measures to help the working poor.
However, many people wearing the high-visibility motorists’ safety jackets which are the symbol of the protests were manning barricades outside cities on Friday.
After heavy criticism for not being seen to respond to the protesters’ complaints, Macron made a TV address this week during which he said he understood their concerns and acknowledged the need for a different approach.
As well canceling fuel tax increases that were due to kick in next month, Macron said he would increase the minimum wage by 100 euros a month from January and reduce taxes for poorer pensioners, among other measures.
Since the first yellow vest protests on Nov. 17, supporters have kept up a steady stream of dissent, although the numbers joining marches have steadily fallen. ($1 = 0.8857 euros)