Taliban says latest talks end on US Afghanistan withdrawal

Taliban are expected to guarantee that Afghanistan will not be used as a base for extremist groups as part of the deal. (File/AFP)
Updated 12 August 2019

Taliban says latest talks end on US Afghanistan withdrawal

  • Taliban spokesman said the latest talks were “long and useful”
  • The deal will include a cease-fire

KABUL: The latest round of talks between the Taliban and the United States on a deal to withdraw thousands of US troops from Afghanistan has ended and now both sides will consult with their leadership on the next steps, a Taliban spokesman said Monday.

The eighth round of talks in the Gulf Arab nation of Qatar concluded after midnight and was “long and useful,” Zabihullah Mujahid said in a statement.

He made no statements on the outcome of the talks.

Last week, another Taliban spokesman had said a deal was expected to follow this round as both sides seek an end to the nearly 18-year war, America’s longest conflict.

An agreement — if reached — is expected to include Taliban guarantees that Afghanistan would not be a base for other extremist groups in the future. However, both the Daesh group’s affiliate and Al-Qaeda remain active in the country. The Taliban stage near-daily attacks across Afghanistan, mainly targeting Afghan forces and government officials but also killing many civilians.

The deal also could include a cease-fire and stipulate that the Taliban would negotiate with Afghan representatives, though the insurgent group has so far refused to negotiate with Kabul representatives, dismissing the Afghan government as a US puppet.

There was no immediate comment on Monday from US envoy Zalmay Khalilzad, who on Sunday tweeted that “I hope this is the last Eid where #Afghanistan is at war.”

Sunday was the first day of the Muslim holiday of Eid-al-Adha, which unfolded without any major violence reported in Afghanistan.

Khalilzad later added that “Many scholars believe that the deeper meaning of Eid Al-Hadha is to sacrifice one’s ego. Leaders on all sides of the war in Afghanistan must take this to heart as we strive for peace.”

Some in Afghanistan saw it as a response to President Ashraf Ghani, who on Sunday declared that “Our future cannot be decided outside, whether in the capital cities of our friends, nemeses or neighbors. The fate of Afghanistan will be decided here in this homeland. ... We don’t want anyone to intervene in our affairs.”

While Ghani insists that the upcoming Sept. 28 presidential election is crucial for giving Afghanistan’s leader a powerful mandate to decide the country’s future after years of war, Khalilzad is seeking a peace deal by Sept. 1, weeks before the vote.

The Taliban control roughly half of Afghanistan and are at their strongest since the US-led invasion toppled their five-year government in 2001 after the group had harbored Al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden. More than 2,400 US service members have died in Afghanistan since then.

The US and NATO formally concluded their combat mission in Afghanistan in 2014. The some 20,000 American and allied troops that remain are carrying out airstrikes on the Taliban and IS militants, and are working to train and build the Afghan military.


Thai official dismisses Muslim insurgent demand on detainees

Updated 45 min 49 sec ago

Thai official dismisses Muslim insurgent demand on detainees

  • Officials of the Barisan Revolusi Nasional met a Thai delegation and demanded the release of detainees
  • The insurgency in the Malay-speaking region of the predominantly Buddhist country has killed some 7,000 people over the past 15 years

BANGKOK: A Thai deputy prime minister dismissed on Monday a demand made by a Malay Muslim group to free those detained over alleged links to the long-running insurgency in Thailand’s mainly Muslim south as a pre-condition for formal talks.
Officials of the Barisan Revolusi Nasional (BRN) met a Thai delegation at an undisclosed location in Southeast Asia on Friday and demanded the release of detainees, a leader of the group told Reuters in a rare interview.
The insurgency in the Malay-speaking region of the predominantly Buddhist country has killed some 7,000 people over the past 15 years and has flared on and off for decades.
“How can you say that? Everything must follow the justice procedure,” Thai Deputy Prime Minister Prawit Wongsuwan told reporters on Monday when he was asked about the BRN’s demand.
The BRN also demanded that the Thai government conduct a transparent investigation into alleged abuses by security forces after allegations that a man from the south, Abdullah Isamusa, 32, fell into a coma after being interrogated by the military.
The army said authorities were investigating and that there was no proof so far of torture.
The BRN, the most active insurgent group in the south, has opted to stay out of peace talks between the Thai government and other insurgent groups, although it said it held two previous meetings in recent years.
Yala, Pattani, and Narathiwat provinces were part of an independent Malay Muslim sultanate before Thailand annexed them in 1909.