Taliban ready for second round of talks with US

One of the officials said the meeting ended with a plan to meet again in September. (File/AFP)
Updated 12 September 2018

Taliban ready for second round of talks with US

  • Taliban officials recounted details of a meeting held in July with Alice Wells, Washington’s top envoy to the region
  • One of the officials said the meeting ended with a plan to meet again in September

ISLAMABAD: The Taliban are ready for a second round of talks with the US, possibly this month, which is likely to focus on prisoner exchange, confidence building measures, and ways to move from back-door meetings to formal negotiations, said Taliban officials in separate interviews in recent days.

Speaking on condition of anonymity because they are not authorized to speak to the media, Taliban officials recounted details of a meeting held in July with Alice Wells, Washington’s top envoy to the region.

One of the officials said the meeting ended with a plan to meet again in September. The US has refused to confirm or deny that meeting.

Both the US and Afghan government have insisted that talks on Afghanistan’s future would be Afghan-led, while direct talks between Washington and the Taliban — which the insurgents have long demanded — are said to be a stepping stone toward Afghan-to-Afghan talks. The Taliban have sought direct talks to settle US concerns about the Taliban’s participation in Afghanistan’s future as well as the presence of NATO and the US in the country.

The official, who spoke to The Associated Press from Qatar, where the Taliban maintain a political office, said they are waiting on Washington for a second meeting date.

During the July meeting, the Taliban asked for recognition of their political office in the Qatar capital of Doha as well as an end to restrictions against its top leaders before the start of the formal negotiations, they said.

The Taliban repeated their longstanding demand for the release of its prisoners in jails in Afghanistan, claiming as many as 2,000 are being held.

Washington has long been demanding the release of prisoners held by the Taliban including American Kevin King and Australian Timothy Weeks, two professors at the American University in Kabul who were kidnapped in August 2016 as they returned to their compound.

In a statement posted on its official website, the Taliban last month took the unusual step of withdrawing security promises to the International Committee of the Red Cross, saying the ICRC had failed to help prisoners in Afghanistan’s Pul-e-Charkhi jail who were on a hunger strike to protest prison conditions.

The Taliban statement was unusual in that it was a rare time that the insurgent group threatened punitive action for alleged behavior that was not Taliban-specific, but rather a general condemnation for a job it said was being poorly done.

The same statement warned all international organizations operating in Afghanistan to “understand that if they indulge in trivial or other irrelevant activities instead of focusing on the main needs of the oppressed people, the Islamic Emirate will treat them in a similar fashion as the decision taken against the Red Cross.”

Meanwhile, Taliban officials said talks between the US and Taliban are at a preliminary stage, still sorting out the simplest of details such as an agenda of formal talks, where those talks might be conducted and who would participate.

Still, Taliban officials said the July meeting covered a gambit of issues ranging from a US request for a two-month cease fire to allow for peaceful parliamentary elections scheduled for next month in Kabul, to a visit by Taliban officials to prisoners in government custody. No agreement was reached on either.

Taliban officials said the details of the July meeting were shared with the Taliban leadership council representative Nooruddin Turabi, who traveled to Qatar for the briefing. It wasn’t clear from where Turabi travelled but the leadership council is believed to be headquartered in Pakistan, even as Islamabad denies providing the insurgents with safe havens.

During the Taliban rule that ended in 2001 with the US-led invasion Turabi served as justice minister as well as the much-feared Minister of Protection of Virtue and Suppression of Vice.

Wife of former Malaysian PM Najib to be questioned by anti-graft agency

Updated 6 min 54 sec ago

Wife of former Malaysian PM Najib to be questioned by anti-graft agency

KUALA LUMPUR: Rosmah Mansor, the wife of former Malaysian prime minister Najib Razak, was summoned on Tuesday for questioning by the anti-graft agency in its multi-billion dollar corruption probe at state fund 1MDB.
It was the second time Rosmah, 66, has been called in by the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) since the shock defeat of Najib in the May general election.
Rosmah was first questioned in June in connection with the investigation, which is looking into allegations of corruption and misappropriation in state fund 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB). Her husband has pleaded not guilty to charges of money laundering, abuse of power and criminal breach of trust.
The former first lady was served with a notice on Tuesday afternoon to appear before MACC the next day, her lawyer K.Kumaraendran said, adding that she was asked to assist with investigations under the anti-money laundering act.
A source familiar with the investigation said Rosmah would be questioned in connection with the 1MDB probe.
After filing fresh charges against Najib last week, Azam Baki, the deputy commissioner of the anti-graft agency, said more charges could be brought against individuals over 1MDB.
When asked if Rosmah could face charges, he said: “I’m not denying that.”
Rosmah’s penchant for designer handbags, watches and jewelry raised eyebrows in Malaysia, with opponents asking how she was able to afford the luxury items on her husband’s government salary.
She has drawn comparisons to Imelda Marcos, who left behind more than 1,200 pairs of shoes when her husband Ferdinand Marcos was ousted as president of the Philippines in 1986.
Najib and Rosmah have both been barred from leaving the country since the former’s election defeat, and their home and other properties linked to them have been searched by the police as part of the 1MDB investigations.
The haul seized from the properties included 567 handbags, 423 watches and 12,000 pieces of jewelry.
Najib has said most of the seized items were gifts given to his wife and daughter and had nothing to do with 1MDB.
The US Department of Justice has alleged more than $4.5 billion was misappropriated from 1MDB and that about $680 million ended up in Najib’s personal bank account. Najib has denied any wrongdoing.