Taliban to deal with Pakistan as ‘brotherly neighbor’ in future

Acting Pentagon chief Patrick Shanahan, center, with Afghanistan's acting Defense Minister Asadullah Khalid, left, and Afghan National Security Adviser Hamdullah Mohib in Kabul on Monday. (AFP)
Updated 11 February 2019

Taliban to deal with Pakistan as ‘brotherly neighbor’ in future

  • We do not adopt or change our policies due to pressure: Zabihullah Mujahid
  • The US, Taliban and regional stakeholders have of late held multiple rounds of talks aimed at finding a political solution to the Afghan conflict

ISLAMABAD: Afghan Taliban leaders have rubbished claims that they only entered peace talks with the US because of pressure from Pakistan.

The insurgents say it was the Americans who approached the Taliban to join the US around the negotiating table in a bid to end the long-running conflict in Afghanistan.

Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid dismissed reports that Islamabad had forced them to start dialogue, and said the current direct talks taking place with US officials were in line with the Taliban’s own strategy.

“We do not adopt or change our policies due to pressure from anyone. I have not seen any pressure,” Mujahid told Arab News. “The ongoing talks taking place (in Qatar) are in accordance with our agenda.”

The Taliban’s outgoing chief negotiator Sher Abbas Stanekzai said last week that the next round of talks, aimed at bringing the war in Afghanistan to an end, will be held in Qatar on Feb. 25. Those discussions are likely to focus on a plan for the withdrawal of foreign troops and ways to prevent the country from being used for terrorism in the future. 

“The perception about the use of pressure (by Pakistan) is false,” Mujahid added. “We had told the Americans to talk to us instead of starting war even before the invasion. Then we opened political office in Doha in 2013 for political talks with the Americans, as the war option was not in the interests of the US. But the US was unwilling to agree to our proposal and instead preferred war.

“It is the US which has started negotiations with us, so it is a change in the US approach to come to the negotiation table. Our stance has always been that war has been imposed on us.”

Mujahid said that in future the Taliban would seek to deal with Pakistan as a “brotherly neighbor” and strengthen relations based on mutual respect. “We want similar relations with other neighboring countries.”

The spokesman described Afghan President Ashraf Ghani’s recent offer to give the Taliban an official office in Afghanistan, as “misplaced.”

“We do not beg anyone to give us an office in our own country. We presently control over half of Afghanistan and if we want to, we can open an office and center anywhere,” Mujahid said.

Political solution 

The US, Taliban and regional stakeholders have of late held multiple rounds of talks aimed at finding a political solution to the Afghan conflict. US special envoy for Afghanistan reconciliation, Zalmay Khalilzad, is on his latest six-nation tour to the region in a bid to secure a peace deal with the group before the Afghan presidential elections slated for July this year. 

The Taliban had until now refused to talk to the Afghan government and appear to be seeking a key role in the new political order of the country. 

Foreign affairs experts do not believe Pakistan could have put pressure on the Taliban to join the peace process.

“Pakistan may be encouraging the Taliban to sit at the negotiation table because the war in Afghanistan has also affected our country,” former Pakistani Ambassador Asif Durrani told Arab News on Monday.

“The Taliban are not naïve enough to accept pressures, but I think they will do whatever is good for Afghanistan,” said Durrani. “They (Taliban) are Afghans, and Afghans are fiercely independent people, so the impression of pressure is a move to malign the Taliban.”

Defense analyst, retired Brig. Said Nazir Mohmand, on Monday told Arab News that any attempt to pressurize the Taliban could “create problems for Pakistan.”

“It was the stated policy of the Taliban that they will only talk to the US as they consider them an occupation force. So, I do not think there was any pressure on them (the Taliban) as the US agreed to start negotiations with them,” Mohmand added.

“But there is a possibility that Pakistan may have used its leverage on the Taliban and convinced them to focus on a political solution.”


US and China seeking to revive trade talks: Trump adviser Sum Obist lique

In this file photo taken on August 6, 2019 White House economic adviser Larry Kudlow speaks to the media on the driveway of the White House in Washington, DC. (AFP)
Updated 44 min 56 sec ago

US and China seeking to revive trade talks: Trump adviser Sum Obist lique

  • The US-China negotiations began in earnest in January and seemed at first to make substantial progress, raising hopes that a trade deal could be rapidly reached

BUENOS AIRES: Washington and Beijing are working actively to revive negotiations aimed at ending the trade war that has rattled world markets, Donald Trump’s chief economic adviser said Sunday.
If teleconferences between both sides’ deputies pan out in the next 10 days “and we can have a substantive renewal of negotiations,” Larry Kudlow said on Fox News Sunday, “then we are planning to have China come to the US and meet with our principals to continue the negotiations.”
That left it uncertain, however, whether a Chinese delegation would be coming to Washington next month, as a White House spokesperson predicted after US Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin left a round of trade talks in Shanghai in July.
But Kudlow emphasized that phone conversations held last week to follow up on the Shanghai talks — involving Lighthizer, Mnuchin and two senior Chinese negotiators, Vice Premier Liu He and Commerce Secretary Zhong Shan — were “a lot more positive than has been reported in the media.”
World financial markets have been on edge amid a series of signs pointing to a serious slowing of the global economy — notably because of the trade war between the world’s two largest economies — and have been reacting strongly to even the slightest new indicator.
The US-China negotiations began in earnest in January and seemed at first to make substantial progress, raising hopes that a trade deal could be rapidly reached.
But during the spring, the US president abruptly called off the talks, saying the Chinese had reneged on earlier commitments.
The discussions resumed again in June at the highest levels in the margins of the G-20 summit meeting in Osaka, Japan between Trump and his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping.
But markets were hit with a fresh surprise when Trump suddenly announced that as of Sept. 1 he was imposing punitive 10-percent tariffs on $300 billion in Chinese goods that had so far been spared.
And then came the announcement from the White House that Trump — already campaigning for re-election in 2020 — had decided to delay imposing the tariffs until Dec. 15 so as not to cast a shadow on the Christmas shopping plans of Americans.