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

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.

Some North Korean officials back at liaison office: Seoul

Updated 49 min 40 sec ago

Some North Korean officials back at liaison office: Seoul

  • North Korea has not clarified if all staff will officially return
  • The country pulled out its staff after collapse of nuclear summit between Kim Jong Un and Donald Trump

SEOUL: South Korea said some North Korean officials returned to an inter-Korean liaison office on Monday, three days after the North abruptly withdrew its entire staff citing unspecified instructions from “higher-level authorities.”

It wasn’t immediately clear why North Korea sent some workers back to the office or whether it would restore a full staff. The North’s decision to withdraw its staff on Friday came a week after its vice foreign minister threatened to pull out of nuclear negotiations with the United States following the collapse of a nuclear summit last month between leader Kim Jong Un and President Donald Trump.

Seoul’s Unification Ministry, which deals with inter-Korean affairs, said in a statement that four to five North Korean officials showed up for work Monday at the liaison office in the North Korean border town of Kaesong and told South Korean officials they came to work their usual shifts.

The ministry said the North continues to provide no clear explanation on why it withdrew staff from the office. The North reportedly sent about 10 workers each working day to the office since it opened last September as part of a slew of reconciliation steps between the rivals agreed to by Kim and South Korean President Moon Jae-in.

The Koreas in past months have dismantled some of their front-line guard posts, halted military exercises across their border and vowed to resume inter-Korean economic projects when possible, voicing optimism that international sanctions could end and allow such projects.

While Moon says inter-Korean reconciliation is crucial for achieving progress in nuclear negotiations, the breakdown of the Trump-Kim summit has created a difficult environment to push engagement with the North.

Washington and Pyongyang have struggled with the sequencing of North Korea’s nuclear disarmament and the removal of US-led sanctions against the North, and blamed each other for the collapse of the summit. North Korean state media have recently demanded that South Korea distance itself from the US and resume joint economic projects that have been held back by sanctions.