US envoy says peace and polls a must for Afghanistan

Afghan families receive free food donated by other citizens as they prepare to break their fast during the holy month of Ramadan, in Kabul. (AP )
Updated 18 May 2019

US envoy says peace and polls a must for Afghanistan

  • Analysts say US losing hope over Taliban peace talks
  • The presidential election is due to be held on Sept. 28. It has been delayed twice

KABUL: Afghans deserve to have peace and presidential polls, the US special envoy to the country said on Saturday.

Zalmay Khalilzad, who is the US Special Representative for Afghanistan Reconciliation, previously indicated that the election needed to be held after the successful conclusion of peace talks with the Taliban.

But he said that preparations for the polls must go ahead even as he attempted to reach a negotiated political settlement with the militant group. 

“In recent days, a few commentators have raised questions about our priorities in #Afghanistan. A peace process that delivers a political settlement is the priority. Afghans want #peace above all,” Khalilzad tweeted. “But wanting peace does not preclude Afghans from demanding preparations for a credible presidential election. Election planning must go forward as we pursue the peace Afghans deserve.”

Candidates standing against the incumbent Ashraf Ghani are concerned about the government’s ability to hold the polls, especially since the results of a parliamentary election in October were announced months later and there was no voting in one province due to it being under Taliban control.

The presidential election is due to be held on Sept. 28. It has been delayed twice.

US Assistant Secretary of State Alice Wells said last week there needed to be free and timely presidential elections, while on Friday the US Ambassador to Afghanistan John R. Bass urged the election commission “to prepare for presidential elections quickly and efficiently.”

Some analysts say the insistence on presidential elections, in particular from Khalilzad, show that the US is losing hope about a successful outcome with the Taliban.

“The Americans have reached the conclusion that their talks with the Taliban will not quickly produce a result and that if elections cannot be held then that will show the total failure of the US in Afghanistan,” Waheed Mozhdah told Arab News. 

“So they now insist on holding the elections. But, from the other side, they want to pass on a message to the Taliban that we have returned to the past and now want elections and he (Khalilzad) wants to put pressure on the Taliban this way too.”

He said the US-Taliban talks ended without success because Khalilzad wanted to keep some US troops in Afghanistan, while the Taliban was demanding a total withdrawal.

Attiqullah Amarkhail, a retired general, said the US had become fed up with the lack of progress over the foreign troop issue.

“So they (Americans) now want the elections so there is a government in place when they have lost hope in the talks with the Taliban,” he told Arab News.

Mozhdah said he believed that elections would be held, but doubted they would lead to a more legitimate government.


5 Indonesians kidnapped by Abu Sayyaf militants: Philippine military

Updated 10 min 14 sec ago

5 Indonesians kidnapped by Abu Sayyaf militants: Philippine military

  • Indonesia’s foreign ministry said has coordinated with the Philippine government
  • Abu Sayyaf, which has its roots in separatism, is notorious for banditry and piracy

MANILA: The Philippine military on Sunday said it has launched search and rescue operations for five Indonesian fishermen kidnapped by militants belonging to the Daesh-linked Abu Sayyaf group in Malaysian waters last week.
Eight Indonesians were abducted in Sabah on Thursday. Three were released, while the remaining five were probably brought by their captors to the southern Philippine province of Sulu, said Lt. Gen. Cirilito Sobejana, chief of the military’s Western Mindanao Command.
Sulu is Abu Sayyaf’s stronghold.
Sobejana disclosed the abduction a day after soldiers clashed with Abu Sayyaf members in Sulare island in Parang town, in Sulu, killing one militant and destroying a speed boat believed to have been used in the kidnapping.
Sobejana said Malaysian authorities had immediately coordinated with the Philippine military after the abduction.
Indonesia’s foreign ministry said it also has coordinated with the Philippine government and was still waiting for official information about the incident.
The speed boat was positively identified by the three Indonesian fishermen who have been freed as the one used in the abduction staged by six militants, Sobejana said.
“The likelihood they are in Sulare island or Parang, Sulu is very high,” he said.
Abu Sayyaf, which has its roots in separatism, is notorious for banditry and piracy, including beheading some captives if no ransom is paid.