Afghan president faces flak for Eid truce offer

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani speaks during a news conference in Kabul, Afghanistan on July 15, 2018. (REUTERS)
Updated 20 August 2018
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Afghan president faces flak for Eid truce offer

  • President Ashraf Ghani announced a three-month-long Eid truce with the Taliban on Sunday while marking Afghanistan's 99th Independence Day
  • The Taliban, in turn, announced the release of captured government soldiers on Eid Al-Adha but are silent over truce offer

KABUL: Taliban militants on Monday refrained from openly accepting, or rejecting, President Ashraf Ghani’s three-month-long conditional ceasefire. Dozens of Afghans, however, marched in protest in Kabul against Ghani’s offer, saying the insurgents did not deserve a truce.

The US, Britain, Pakistan and Saudi Arabia are among countries that hailed President Ghani’s proposal, made on Sunday evening.

The Taliban had earlier accepted Ghani's truce offer during Eid Al-Fitr and announced a halt to fighting and thousands of them entered government-held areas to celebrate the post-Ramadan festival.

Spokesmen for the Taliban said their leadership had given no instruction whether the group will indeed declare a truce this time around.

The Taliban did say that several government troops captured by the insurgents would be freed on the occasion of Eid and that their release was not linked to Ghani's offer.

A spokesman for Ghani, Haroon Chakhansuri, said on Monday that no Taliban troops were among those the government plans to free on Eid Al-Adha.

Officials at the office of Chief Executive Dr. Abdullah Abdullah said no unilateral truce would be allowed along the pattern of last Eid. At that time, the Taliban observed only three days of ceasefire and attacked government forces across the country while the government enforced a longer truce.

Without the other side's willingness to halt fighting, the ceasefire would be meaningless, they said.

The spokesman for the government-appointed High Peace Council (HPC), Sayed Ehsan Taher, said the body’s findings showed that people wanted a permanent ceasefire between the government and the Taliban.

Afghan lawmakers claim the government seeks a prolonged truce because it is unable to hold both the parliamentary elections slated for October and the presidential election in six months’ time.
Despite international support for Ghani’s ceasefire offer, a group of people in Kabul, led by former intelligence chief, Amrullah Saleh, staged a protest against it.

“The Taliban only bring the forces of evil into our cities. They only bring death, destruction, and chaos,” one protester, Ejaz Malikzada, said.
Forgetting the crimes of Taliban militants is tantamount to participating in their crimes, said some of the lawmakers in Ghani's administration. Family members of hundreds and thousands of Taliban victims have neither forgiven nor forgotten the atrocities, said one of the lawmakers who asked for anonymity.
“Our city is our home, not a haven for filthy terrorists. The Taliban only bring death and destruction. In a matter of one week, Taliban terrorists murdered 1,000 Afghan National Security Forces and civilians. We cannot let all that blood go in vain,” said Saleh.
The protesters called on the general public not to allow the Taliban to enter government-held areas. Some locals in northern Baghlan province have even vowed to shoot any Taliban on sight if they enter government-held areas as they did the previous time.


AU leaders agree reforms to reduce donor dependence

Updated 6 min 51 sec ago
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AU leaders agree reforms to reduce donor dependence

  • Heads of state and ministers had gathered at the body’s headquarters in Addis Ababa for what was seen as a last-ditch attempt to push through reforms

ADDIS ABABA: African Union leaders on Sunday finally agreed measures compelling members states to pay their dues as part of a drive to reform a body often seen as toothless and donor-dependent.
Heads of state and ministers had gathered at the body’s headquarters in Addis Ababa for what was seen as a last-ditch attempt to push through reforms that have been mulled for nearly two years.
The AU in 2016 charged its chairman and Rwandan President Paul Kagame with getting reforms passed, but observers have said time is running out because Egypt — which is set to assume the chairmanship — is thought to oppose aspects of the agenda.
In proposals unveiled last year, Kagame envisioned a more narrowly focused AU headed by a powerful commission whose bills were covered by its 55 member states rather than foreign donors.
Although not all his reforms were passed, Kagame welcomed the progress made at the two-day summit.
Their effect would be “felt for decades” to come, he said.
“We have done our part to continue the journey, and I expect the coming... chairperson of the African Union to continue with the same momentum and the same progress,” he added.
The majority of the bloc’s 55 member states rejected Kagame’s plan to give the head of the AU commission — the body’s executive branch — the power to appoint their own deputy and commissioners.
This was seen as a move to make the administration more accountable to their leader.
However members backed moves to streamline the body while bringing in revenue from member states and sanctioning those who don’t pay their dues.
The AU currently depends on foreign donors, who in 2019 will pay for 54 percent of a total budget of $681.5 million (596 million euros).
The AU also agreed to reduce the number of commissions to six from eight, with peace and security merged with political affairs and trade and industry merged with economic affairs, AU commission chairman Moussa Faki Mahamat told journalists.
On Saturday the AU launched a fund dedicated to paying for responses to crises on the continent before they evolve into full-blown conflicts.
The Peace Fund is part of the AU’s proposals to wean itself off donor money, the centerpiece of which is a 0.2 percent import levy meant to finance the body which 24 countries are in the process of implementing.
But the US has opposed the duty, arguing it violates World Trade Organization rules.
The US mission to the AU issued a statement saying it supports the AU’s self-funding goals but opposed “trade measures” to achieve them.
“We are proud of our partnership with the AU and will continue to work with the AU... to find impactful ways to bring peace and security to the continent,” the statement sent to AFP said.
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