Deal on foreign troops withdrawal from Afghanistan ‘likely’

Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, second from left, and other Taliban leaders arrive for talks during an earlier round of negotiations in Moscow, Russia on May 28, 2019. (AP)
Updated 07 July 2019

Deal on foreign troops withdrawal from Afghanistan ‘likely’

  • A member of the American negotiating team denies US offer for an 18-month withdrawal as part of a peace deal
  • Taliban spokesman says working on the draft agreement

KABUL: Talks between Taliban delegates and US diplomats in Qatar have entered a crucial stage, with the finalization of a draft agreement pushing for the withdrawal of US troops from Afghanistan said to be not far away.

A member of the American negotiating team on Friday described the talks as “very productive,” while strenuously denying Washington sought a fixed deadline for the withdrawal of its estimated 14,000 troops from Afghanistan as part of a final peace deal.

The news comes as Afghan politicians make their way to Doha, Qatar, to begin their own discussions with the group on Sunday.

Taliban spokesman Suhail Shaheen said both Germany and Qatar have jointly hosted the intra-Afghan dialogue.

“We have made some progress,” he told The Associated Press on Friday, “we are working on the draft agreement.”

Negotiations have had fresh momentum in recent weeks after US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo visited Afghanistan’s capital, Kabul, at the end of last month. At the time, he said Washington was hopeful of an agreement before Sept. 1.

FAST FACTS

• The Taliban has held at least two rounds of talks with opposition politicians in Moscow in the past six months.

• Government officials are reportedly attending talks in Doha in their personal capacity.

• US wants a ‘comprehensive peace agreement’ from the discussions.

The appointment last year of Zalmay Khalilzad as a US special peace envoy began the accelerated effort to find a negotiated end to Afghanistan’s war and America’s longest military engagement. Since then Khalilzad has held scores of talks with the Afghan government in Kabul and abroad, with the Taliban as well as with Afghanistan’s neighbors — including Pakistan which has been accused of aiding the insurgents.

The US official in Qatar’s capital, Doha, where the Taliban maintain a political office and talks are being held, told The Associated Press that the US “definitely did not offer” an 18-month withdrawal as part of a peace deal.

Speaking anonymously because of the sensitivity of the talks, the US negotiator was responding to a timeframe Taliban official told the AP months earlier.

The US negotiator said the deal being negotiated in Doha with the Taliban is “comprehensive and includes specifics on all four parts including a cease fire, timeline, participating in intra-Afghan negotiations and counter-terrorism assurances.”

A spokesman for Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, Samin Aref, refused to comment about the reported progress on the draft agreement, which has been discussed in previous rounds of US-Taliban summits without the inclusion of Ghani’s government.

Proposed talks between the two parties are also said to have collapsed as a result of disagreements over which government figures would be present aThe Taliban has held at least two rounds of talks with opposition politicians in Moscow in the past six months, but refused to hold meetings with Ghani, saying it would give him legitimacy ahead of upcoming presidential elections, calling him a “US puppet.” 

Political analyst Wahidullah Ghazikhail said US and Taliban talks had reached a “sensitive” period, and the fact that government officials were now attending them “was a good start.”

The talks have been overshadowed in some quarters by the mixed messages of US President Donald Trump, who has made no secret of his desire to pull US personnel out of Afghanistan at a faster rate than many senior US and Afghan military figures feel comfortable with.

US Envoy to Afghanistan Zalmay Khalilzad has in the past said troop withdrawals had been part of the agenda of talks with the Taliban, but that the US wanted “a comprehensive peace agreement” from the discussions, “not (just) a withdrawal agreement.”

(With AP)


Myanmar rejects court probe into crimes against Rohingyas

This file photo taken on September 27, 2017 shows and aerial view of burnt villages near Maungdaw in Myanmar's northern Rakhine state. (AFP)
Updated 31 min 48 sec ago

Myanmar rejects court probe into crimes against Rohingyas

  • The court’s position is that because Myanmar’s alleged atrocities sent more than 700,000 Rohingya fleeing to Bangladesh for safety, it does have jurisdiction since Bangladesh is a party to the court and the case may involve forced deportation

YANGON: Myanmar’s government rejected the International Criminal Court’s decision to allow prosecutors to open an investigation into crimes committed against the Rohingya Muslim minority.
Government spokesman Zaw Htay said that Myanmar stood by its position that the Netherlands-based court has no jurisdiction over its actions.
His statement was the first official reaction since the court agreed on Thursday  to proceed with the case.
Zaw Htay cited a Myanmar Foreign Ministry statement from April 2018 that because Myanmar was not a party to the agreement establishing the court, it did not need to abide by the court’s rulings.
“It has already been expressed in the statement that the investigation over Myanmar by the ICC is not in accordance with international law,” he said in the Myanmar capital Naypyitaw.
The court’s position is that because Myanmar’s alleged atrocities sent more than 700,000 Rohingya fleeing to Bangladesh for safety, it does have jurisdiction since Bangladesh is a party to the court and the case may involve forced deportation.
Last year’s statement charged that the court’s prosecutor, by claiming jurisdiction, was attempting “to override the principle of national sovereignty and non-interference in the internal affairs of other states.”
The 2018 statement also said Myanmar’s position was that it “has not deported any individuals in the areas of concern and in fact has worked hard in collaboration with Bangladesh to repatriate those displaced from their homes.”
However, there still has been no official repatriation of the Rohingya, and human rights activists charge that Myanmar has not established safe conditions for their return.
Zaw Htay said that Myanmar has already set up its own Independent Commission of Inquiry, which was making progress in its investigations. He noted that the military as well had established a Court of Enquiry.
“If we find abuses (of human rights), we will take action according to the law,” he said.
An independent UN fact-finding mission that collected extensive evidence that it said shows that trials for genocide and crimes against humanity are merited declared earlier this year that justice could not be fairly served by judicial processes inside Myanmar. It said an international mechanism or process was needed for accountability.
Gambia, on behalf of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, filed a case on Monday at the International Court of Justice accusing Myanmar of genocide in its treatment of the Rohingya.
The International Court of Justice settles disputes between nations, while The International Criminal Court seeks to convict individuals responsible for crimes. Both courts are based in The Hague.