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
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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.


Mission sets up emergency center for Bangladesh workers caught in Libyan conflict

Illegal migrants sit inside the Ganzour shelter after being transferred from in the airport road due to fighting in the Libyan capital Tripoli on September 5, 2018. (AFP)
Updated 18 min 22 sec ago
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Mission sets up emergency center for Bangladesh workers caught in Libyan conflict

  • The wave of violence has also affected those Bangladeshis who have been living in Libya for many years
  • A round-the-clock control room service has been set up by the Bangladesh mission in Tripoli to protect Bangladeshi migrant workers since the latest clashes began

DHAKA: Construction worker Nurul Alam, 27, who became stranded in Tripoli, unable to move due to heavy gunfire surrounding his hideout, is one of 25 Bangladeshi migrant workers who have been rescued thanks to a 24-hour control center set up in the Libyan capital.
He was rescued after he contacted the Bangladesh Embassy for help.
His mother Jainab Akhter, 59, said her son had been living in Tripoli for four years, working for a construction company when he became stranded at Khalid Farjan in the city, trying to eke out his stockpile of food, but in such a vulnerable position that he did not dare to leave his hiding place.
“Due to heavy gunfighting, Alam could not come out on the streets to find a safer place. Although Alam talked to us every day from that stranded situation, it was like a nightmare for me. I prayed every moment to Almighty Allah to save my son’s life,” said Akhter.
Alam and three other Bangladeshi migrant workers were caught in sporadic battles between rival groups in Tripoli this month. After Alam contacted the Bangladesh Embassy for help they were rescued and taken to a safer location nearby.
A round-the-clock control room service has been set up by the Bangladesh mission in Tripoli to protect Bangladeshi migrant workers since the latest clashes began.
“So far, we have rescued around 25 Bangladeshi workers from different areas of Tripoli,” says Ashraful Islam, the first secretary of Bangladesh mission in Libya.
Islam told Arab News that when they receive an emergency call from a Bangladeshi worker, the mission immediately contacts the local Red Cross. The Red Cross initiates a cease-fire for few minutes by negotiating with the battling groups, then evacuates the stranded individuals.
“We will continue to run this emergency control room service until the situation returns to normal,” Islam added.
Around 8,000 Bangladeshi workers currently live in Tripoli, mostly unskilled migrant workers, Islam said.
“So far we have not received any information of Bangladeshi workers’ casualties resulting from recent clashes and our citizens are still in a comparatively safe position,” he said.
The wave of violence has also affected those Bangladeshis who have been living in Libya for many years. One such is Abdul Mannan Chowdhury, a Bangladeshi who has lived in Libya since 2009.
“One of the rival groups have taken my personal car to fight in the battle. Ten days have passed and they have still not returned my car,” he said.
The expat Bangladeshi businessman added that a state of anarchy now existed in the country. “I don’t feel secure in any part of this country, but I cannot leave as I have already invested a significant amount of money in business. We have been running for the past few years due to security concerns,” added Chowdhury.
Around 30,000 Bangladeshi expats currently live in Libya. The country stopped issuing visas to Bangladeshi workers in May 2015 following reports of illegal human trafficking. In recent years, hundreds of Bangladeshi migrant workers traveled to Italy from Libya through the risky boat journey.
Before the Libyan war, around 60,000 Bangladeshi workers worked for Libyan companies.