Taliban reject Kabul talks in wake of deadly attack

Afghan security forces and investigators gather at the site of a suicide bomb attack outside British security firm G4S’ compound in Kabul. (AFP)
Updated 29 November 2018
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Taliban reject Kabul talks in wake of deadly attack

  • Suicide strike on security compound ‘a clear rejection of Ghani peace plan’
  • Extremists could take part in Afghan presidential election, US special envoy suggests

KABUL: A Taliban suicide attack on a security compound in Kabul this week that killed 10 people was designed to overshadow Afghan President Ashraf Ghani’s latest peace initiative, observers believe.

The strike came as international delegates were ending a major conference on Afghanistan in Geneva where Ghani outlined his road-map for peace with the extremists.

In an attack that lasted several hours, Taliban assailants, including suicide bombers, targeted a compound occupied by G4S, a firm that provides security for the British Foreign Office in Afghanistan.

A British national was believed to be among the victims of the attack.

Observers said that the Taliban attack sought to overshadow Ghani’s peace plan at the Geneva summit, and to show foreign diplomats that his National Unity Government was incompetent and weak.

The attack was also a clear rejection of the Afghan leader’s roadmap for peace.

On Thursday, the Taliban issued a statement ruling out talks with Kabul to end the war that began with the ousting of the militant group in a US-led military campaign 17 years ago.

Outlining his peace road-map, Ghani told the Geneva forum that an elected government chosen after the presidential election next April would be in a better position to implement the plan.

The peace deal would protect the constitutional rights of all citizens, including women, he said.

Ghani also said that he was willing to review the constitution.

The peace plan was the result of months of consultation with people across Afghanistan, he said.

“We have formed the required bodies and mechanisms to pursue a peace agreement. We are now moving ahead into the next chapter of the peace process,” Ghani said.

“The Afghan people need an elected government with a mandate to obtain ratification, implement the peace agreement, and lead the social reconciliation process.”

Ghani’s administration has rejected proposals by US that the polls be delayed so that talks between Washington and the Taliban can produce tangible results.

The Taliban has refused to hold talks with Kabul.

“During his speech, Ashraf Ghani declared setting up a negotiation team that will talk with the Islamic Emirate (Taliban). He also forwarded proposals about negotiations that were beyond his capabilities,” the Taliban said in a statement.

“The policy of the Islamic Emirate about negotiations is very clear. The Islamic Emirate, as a representative of its nation, has waged war against the American invaders for the past 18 years. It considers talking to powerless and foreign-imposed entities as a waste of time because impotent sides do not possess the capacity to make decisions,” it said.

Ret. Gen. Attiqullah Amarkhail said that the peace roadmap contained little to inspire confidence in an end to the fighting.

The Taliban attack and subsequent statement dashed any hopes that the militant group would consider talks with Kabul, he said.

The attack was a blow to Kabul, too.

“Our government does not learn from its mistakes and experiences to put troops on high alert when there is a leading foreign visitor in town or when government leaders are abroad attending a key conference such as Geneva,” Amarkhail told Arab News.

“With this attack, the Taliban showed the world at large and the Afghan people that the government in Kabul is weak and incompetent, and that helping it is waste of resources and time,” he said.

Meanwhile, after his tour of the region and talks with the Taliban, Washington’s new envoy, Zalmay Khalilzad, said that he hoped to see a deal with the Taliban before the presidential elections set for April 20, 2019.

“Ideally, of course, it would be good to have an agreement with the Taliban first and then have the presidential election, because then the Taliban would also participate in a possible election,” he told PBSO News Hour on Wednesday.

“It is possible (for the Taliban to take part). Is it likely? We will have to see.”

Khalilzad said that Washington was keen to see the Afghan war end and wanted to ensure the country did not become a “platform for international terrorists against the US.”

He also said that the Taliban were not seeking a monopoly on power in Afghanistan.


British envoy denies Iran summons over tanker attacks claim

Updated 16 June 2019
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British envoy denies Iran summons over tanker attacks claim

  • “I asked for an urgent meeting with the Foreign Ministry yesterday and it was granted. No ‘summons’,” he said
  • Iran’s foreign ministry said the head of its European affairs Mahmoud Barimani met Macaire on Saturday

TEHRAN: Britain’s ambassador to Iran on Sunday denied he was summoned by the Iranian foreign ministry after London accused Tehran of “almost certainly” being responsible for tanker attacks in the Gulf.
“Interesting. And news to me,” ambassador Rob Macaire said in a tweet a day after the Iranian foreign ministry said in a statement that it had summoned the envoy over his government’s accusations.
“I asked for an urgent meeting with the Foreign Ministry yesterday and it was granted. No ‘summons’. Of course if formally summoned I would always respond, as would all Ambassadors,” Macaire wrote.
Iran’s foreign ministry said the head of its European affairs Mahmoud Barimani met Macaire on Saturday and “strongly protested against the unacceptable and anti-Iranian positions of the British government.”
On Friday, British Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt said London had concluded Iran was “almost certainly” responsible for Thursday’s tanker attacks.
He was echoing remarks by US President Donald Trump who said Thursday’s attacks on two tankers in the Gulf of Oman had Iran “written all over it.”
Iran has denied any involvement in the twin attacks.
It dismissed Hunt’s accusations as “false” and chided London for its “blind and precipitous alignment” with US views, according to the foreign ministry.
The latest incident comes as ties between Tehran and London have been strained in recent months, namely over the fate of a British-Iranian mother jailed in Iran on sedition charges.
London has repeatedly called for the release of Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, who was arrested in April 2016 as she was leaving Iran after taking their infant daughter to visit her family.
Zaghari-Ratcliffe, who is serving a five-year sentence for allegedly trying to topple the Iranian government, has begun a hunger strike in protest at her detention, her husband said on Saturday.
She previously went on hunger strike in January.
Richard Ratcliffe urged the Iranian authorities to immediately release his wife and to allow the British embassy to check on her health, and also asked they grant him a visa to visit her.
On Saturday he also stood outside Iran’s London embassy and said he would maintain his own hunger strike and vigil for as long as his wife refused food.