Taliban to quit peace talks if US troops are not pulled out of Afghanistan

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The Taliban has objected to government involvement in its meetings with US special envoy Zalmay Khalilzad and wants foreign troops to leave Afghanistan. (Courtesy Afghan Ministry of Foreign Affairs)
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The Taliban has objected to government involvement in its meetings with US special envoy Zalmay Khalilzad and wants foreign troops to leave Afghanistan. (Courtesy Afghan Ministry of Foreign Affairs)
Updated 16 January 2019
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Taliban to quit peace talks if US troops are not pulled out of Afghanistan

  • The threat came as US special envoy Zalmay Khalilzad arrived in Kabul to brief the government and politicians on his engagement in the region regarding the peace process
  • Khalilzad is meeting President Ashraf Ghani, CEO Abdullah, and political leaders to discuss the next steps in efforts to support and facilitate an Afghan-led and Afghan-owned peace process

KABUL: The Taliban said on Tuesday they would call off peace talks with the US if its troops were not pulled out of Afghanistan. The threat came as the US special envoy landed in Kabul.

Zalmay Khalilzad arrived in Kabul to brief the government and politicians on his engagement in the region regarding the peace process.

Last month, it was reported that President Donald Trump had ordered the withdrawal of thousands of troops. 

But there has been speculation the US wants to keep some military bases in Afghanistan, and that it is pushing the Taliban to hold direct talks with Kabul.

The Taliban has objected to government involvement in its meetings with Khalilzad and wants foreign troops to leave Afghanistan.

The armed group said the US must pursue the peace talks with “sincere intentions” or it would be forced to stall all talks and negotiations until its “unlawful pressures and maneuvering” ended. 

“The United States agreed during the Doha meeting in November to discuss the withdrawal of foreign forces from Afghanistan and prevent Afghanistan from being used against other countries in the upcoming meeting,” the Taliban said, accusing the US of “backing out from that agenda and unilaterally adding new subjects.”

The US Embassy in Kabul said Khalilzad was meeting President Ashraf Ghani, CEO Abdullah, and political leaders to discuss the next steps in efforts to support and facilitate an Afghan-led and Afghan-owned peace process.

His arrival in Kabul followed stops in India, the UAE and China.

Mohammad Akbari, one of those at the meeting, said Khalilzad had expressed optimism about his efforts and regional cooperation but had not revealed why he was so hopeful.

Khalilzad later tweeted about the “good session” in Kabul.

“We discussed the peace process & all agree that progress depends on Afghans sitting with each other, negotiating a future for all Afghan people,” he said.

The US Embassy said the goal was to promote dialogue among Afghans about how to end the conflict, and to encourage parties to come together at the negotiating table to reach a political settlement in which every Afghan citizen “enjoyed equal rights and responsibilities under the rule of law.” 

Ahmad Zia Rafat, a political science professor, said peace talks in a normal country faced ups and downs but there would be more hurdles when it came to Afghanistan because of the war’s complexity. 

“We had 40 years of war so one should not expect a quick resolution of the crisis. The first priority for peace is for Afghanistan and Pakistan to settle their historical differences,” he told Arab News.

“If you have consensus in a realistic manner between these two countries, then you are depriving the Taliban from a key supporter, long believed to be Pakistan. Then you can forge consensus in the region and reintegrate the Taliban in the political mainstream.”


At least 134 Fulani herders killed in central Mali’s worst violence yet

Members of the Malian Army (Fama), patrol in Anderamboukane, in Menaka region, on March 22, 2019. (AFP)
Updated 39 sec ago
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At least 134 Fulani herders killed in central Mali’s worst violence yet

  • Some 4,500 French troops remain based in the wider Sahel, most of them in Mali

BAMAKO: Gunmen killed at least 134 Fulani herders in central Mali on Saturday, a local mayor said, the deadliest such attack of recent times in a region reeling from worsening ethnic and jihadist violence.
The assaults on the villages of Ogossagou and Welingara took place as a UN Security Council mission visited Mali seeking solutions to violence that killed hundreds of civilians last year and is spreading across West Africa’s Sahel region.
Moulaye Guindo, mayor of the nearby town of Bankass, said armed men, dressed as traditional Donzo hunters, encircled and attacked Ogossagou at about 4 a.m. (0400 GMT).
“We are provisionally at 134 bodies recovered by the gendarmes,” Guindo told Reuters by telephone from Ogossagou.
He said another nearby Fulani village, Welingara, had also been attacked, causing “a number” of deaths, but he did not yet know how many.
Security sources said the dead included pregnant women, children and elderly people.
One Ogossagou resident, who asked not to be identified, said the attack appeared to be in retaliation for an Al-Qaeda affiliate’s claim of responsibility on Friday for a raid last week that killed 23 soldiers.
That group said that raid was payback for violence by Mali’s army and militiamen against the Fulani.
Jihadist groups linked to Al-Qaeda and Daesh have exploited ethnic rivalries in Mali and its neighbors Burkina Faso and Niger in recent years to boost recruitment and render vast swathes of territory virtually ungovernable.
French forces intervened in Mali, a former French colony, in 2013 to push back a jihadist advance from the desert north but the militants have since regrouped and expanded their presence into central Mali and the neighboring countries.
Some 4,500 French troops remain based in the wider Sahel, most of them in Mali. The United States also has hundreds of troops in the region.
Security Council ambassadors met with Malian president Ibrahim Boubacar Keita and other government officials on Friday evening to discuss the violence and the slow implementation of a 2015 peace agreement with non-Islamist armed groups.
“Clear sense of frustration among many Security Council members at pace of implementation of Mali Peace Agreement,” Britain’s representative on the mission, Stephen Hickey, wrote on Twitter. “Security Council prepared to impose sanctions on those who impede its implementation.”