Kabul expects US to share peace deal details

Members of the Taliban delegation walk during a previous round of talks in the Qatari capital Doha. (File/AFP)
Updated 25 August 2019

Kabul expects US to share peace deal details

  • Afghan government excluded from all rounds of talks
  • Washington is keen for the deal to be signed before Sept. 1

KABUL: Afghanistan said on Saturday it expects the US to share details of a peace deal with the Taliban before it is signed, having been excluded from all rounds of talks.

US Special Envoy Zalmay Khalilzad has led diplomats through at least nine rounds of talks with members of the armed group in Qatar since last summer.

A deal could pave the way for a complete withdrawal of US troops from Afghanistan and end almost two decades of fighting in the country.

But President Ashraf Ghani’s government has been left out of the talks because of objections from the Taliban, which views his regime as a puppet of the West.

The current round of discussions has been described as crucial because, according to present and former Taliban officials, both parties are expected to soon sign a deal.

“The Afghan government expects that it (agreement) will be shared before it is finalized for signing,” Ghani’s chief spokesman, Sediq Seddiqi, told Arab News.

He said Kabul could not say when the deal would be signed, and that troops’ departure would be condition-based and not based on a timeline set by the Taliban.

“Well, force reduction will be based on conditions, the terrorist threat is potential and we must fight it together for our common safety and in order to prevent any major terrorist attacks on the world’s capitals. 

“We must deny terrorists from holding free ground in Afghanistan and turning it into a safe haven. The presence of some forces, and continued and meaningful support to the Afghan security and defense forces, will be key to our success.”

The Taliban wants all foreign troops to leave Afghanistan within a set timetable and, in return, the group says it will not allow Afghan soil to be used against any foreign country or US interests.

Afghan and US officials have warned against a total pullout of troops because, they argue, the Taliban will try to regain power by force and the country will slide back into chaos after troops leave.

But some say a continued presence will prolong the conflict, as neighboring powers oppose the presence of foreign troops in Afghanistan and see it as a trigger for extremism.

The Taliban could not be reached immediately for comment about media reports, which cited the group’s former and current officials as saying that a deal with Washington was imminent.

“We have an agreement on a timeframe for the withdrawal,” Suhail Shaheen, the Taliban’s spokesman for the Qatar talks, told Pakistan’s Dawn newspaper. “Discussions are now focused on its implementation mechanism. We have had general discussions today,” he added, referring to current discussions in Doha. “Tomorrow, we shall have discussions on the implementation part.”

Another Taliban spokesman said the top US military commander in Afghanistan, Gen. Scott Miller, had taken part in the current talks which, according to some observers, showed the importance of the discussions and the possibility of a final deal.

Washington is keen for the deal to be signed before Sept. 1, weeks ahead of a crucial and controversial presidential poll in Afghanistan. 

Ghani, who is standing for re-election, says the polls are his priority. Some politicians believe that peace will have to come first and that the vote will have to be delayed.

Abdul Satar Saadat, who served as an adviser to Ghani, said the Taliban and US were racing against time as any delay would damage trust between the two and prompt the Taliban to fight for another five years.

“Because of this both sides are doing their utmost to sign the deal, delay the polls and begin an intra-Afghan dialogue like Oslo,” he told Arab News.


Police clear major migrant camp in northern France

Updated 12 min 26 sec ago

Police clear major migrant camp in northern France

  • The mayor of Grande-Synthe in December 2018 opened up the sports hall to migrant families seeking shelter from the cold
  • Since then, it has grown into a makeshift camp, with around 800 people sleeping in tents pitched around the crammed gymnasium

GRANDE-SYNTHE, France: French police began clearing around 1,000 migrants from a gymnasium near the northern port of Dunkirk on Thursday after a court ruled it was a health and security hazard.
The mayor of Grande-Synthe in December 2018 opened up the sports hall to migrant families seeking shelter from the cold.
Since then, it has grown into a makeshift camp, with around 800 people sleeping in tents pitched around the crammed gymnasium where around 170 people, mostly Iraqi Kurds hoping to reach Britain, had been sheltering.
Thursday’s clearance operation began shortly after 8:00 am (0600 GMT).
Young men traveling alone were the first to board buses that will take them to shelters around the region, where they can apply for asylum.
Families were to be moved later.
Northern France has long been a magnet for people seeking to smuggle themselves to Britain in the tens of thousands of trucks and cars that travel daily between the countries on ferries and trains.
The area around Grande-Synthe has traditionally drawn Iraqi Kurds and has been repeatedly cleared in recent years.
A court in the regional city of Lille ordered the gymnasium shut on September 4 following complaints from local authorities and residents about violence, garbage and the presence of people-smugglers among the migrants.
French authorities have had a policy of trying to prevent migrants forming camps since 2016 when they razed a notorious illegal squat nicknamed the “Jungle” near the port of Calais which was home to 10,000 people at its height.
But rights groups have criticized police tactics.
In December, the country’s human rights ombudsman denounced the “extreme destitution” suffered by people camping out or sleeping under bridges in the area.
The ombudsman, Jacques Toubon, accused the authorities of “trying to make (migrants) invisible” by regularly tearing down their camps without providing them with viable alternatives.
French President Emmanuel Macron has pledged to speed up the asylum claims process for people deemed to be bona fide refugees, while vowing to accelerate the deportation procedure for so-called economic migrants.