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.


Spain: Storm death toll up to 7, major river floods feared

Updated 3 min 14 sec ago

Spain: Storm death toll up to 7, major river floods feared

MADRID: Three more people have died as a result of a fierce storm that has battered Spain for the past three days, authorities said Wednesday, raising the death toll to seven.
Fears increased that heavy rains expected later Wednesday could lead to several swollen rivers breaking their banks, among them the Onyar river that flows through the northeastern city of Gerona .
The body of a missing man was found Wednesday in a flooded area near the town of Callosa, in southeastern Spain, the local Valencia regional government said.
It added that a woman was killed when her apartment building partially collapsed in the town of Alcoy, following heavy rains.
In the southeastern town of Nijar, a farmer was found dead in a plastic greenhouse that had been hit by a hail storm, according to the private Spanish news agency Europa Press.
Four other people died between Sunday and Tuesday.
Searches continued for several missing people.
Since Sunday, the storm has hit mostly eastern areas of Spain with hail, heavy snow and high winds, while huge waves smashed into towns on the Mediterranean coast and the nearby islands of Mallorca and Menorca.
Weather forecasts said the worst of the storm had passed by Wednesday.
Transport authorities said the bad weather forced the closure of more than 200 roads. Schools canceled classes for more than 5,700 pupils.
Officials in Barcelona said the city’s beaches lost much of their sand due to the high, powerful surf.
Rubén del Campo, spokesman for national weather service AEMET, said he expected that once all data was collected the storm will have been one of the strongest on record. Some areas saw their heaviest rainfall in more than 70 years.