Kabul ‘concerned’ about US-Taliban deal, seeks clarification

Smoke rises from the site of an attack after a massive explosion the night before near the Green Village in Kabul on September 3, 2019. (Wakil Kohsar/AFP)
Updated 04 September 2019

Kabul ‘concerned’ about US-Taliban deal, seeks clarification

  • The prospect of a US-Taliban deal has engendered high anxiety among many Afghans
  • The statement is Kabul’s first such reaction to the prospective deal

KABUL: The Afghan government expressed doubts Wednesday about a prospective deal between the US and the Taliban, saying officials need more information about the risks it poses.
US special envoy Zalmay Khalilzad was in Kabul this week, when he shared with Afghan officials an agreement “in principle” Washington has forged with the Taliban that would lead to a pull-out of American troops.
The prospect of a US-Taliban deal has engendered high anxiety among many Afghans, who feel sidelined from the process, worry the hard-line Islamists will return to power, and see a beaten America selling out their interests in a bid to escape Afghanistan after 18 years of grueling war.
Sediq Sediqqi, Afghan President Ashraf Ghani’s spokesman, said that while the Kabul administration supports any progress in an eventual peace process, it wants to prevent any negative consequences.
Kabul is “concerned, therefore we seek clarification about this document so that we can carefully analyze the risks and potential negative consequences, and prevent any danger it may cause,” Sediqqi said on Twitter.
The statement is Kabul’s first such reaction to the prospective deal, which Khalilzad presented on Monday.
Ghani and his government have until now been largely sidelined in negotiations between the US and the Taliban, who see Ghani as illegitimate and have insisted on dealing first with the Americans.
Kabul’s concerns build on a position expressed Tuesday by former US ambassadors to Afghanistan, who warned in a joint statement against a major troop withdrawal without a comprehensive peace accord.
“A major withdrawal of US forces should follow, not come in advance, of (a) real peace agreement,” the former envoys wrote.
According to parts of the deal made public so far, the Pentagon would pull thousands of its 13,000 or so troops from five bases across Afghanistan by early next year, provided the Taliban hew to their security pledges.
The insurgents have said they will renounce Al-Qaeda, fight the Daesh group and stop militants using Afghanistan as a safe haven.
Ultimately, though, Kabul has no say on whether the US and the Taliban make a deal, and can only hope the insurgents honor a pledge to sit down with the Afghan government to build a separate accord.


Singapore confirms first case of Wuhan virus

Updated 23 January 2020

Singapore confirms first case of Wuhan virus

Singapore Thursday confirmed its first case of the new SARS-like virus which has killed 17 people in China and spread to multiple countries including the United States.
The Ministry of Health (MOH) said the patient was a 66-year-old man from Wuhan who arrived in Singapore with his family on Monday.
He was immediately isolated after arriving at a hospital with a fever and cough, and test results later confirmed he was infected with the coronavirus.
One of his traveling companions, a 37-year-old man from Wuhan, has also been admitted to hospital as a suspect case.
Prior to admission, they had stayed at a hotel on the resort island of Sentosa, the ministry said.
It added that Singapore was expecting more cases and alarms “given the high volume of international travel.”
Moreover, tourists leaving Bangkok for China said on Thursday they were worried about the spread of the Wuhan virus, ahead of more air and train travel in the lead-up to the Lunar New Year holidays.
China has placed Wuhan, a city of 11 million, on lockdown, as it is considered the epicenter of a new coronavirus outbreak that has killed 17 and infected nearly 600.
Thailand has so far confirmed four cases of coronavirus, the largest number outside China. Two of the cases were Chinese women who have since been allowed to return home. Chinese tourists make up the largest group of visitors to Thailand.
At Bangkok’s Suvarnabhumi airport, masked visitors lined up as usual to check in for Southern China Airlines flights back to China.
AirAsia said on Thursday it has canceled direct flights between Wuhan and cities in Thailand and Malaysia until Jan 28.
Matt Thomas, who lives in the Chinese city of Xian, said he was worried about the new Chinese virus, especially because he once contracted swine flu which he described as “awful.”
“I’m a bit worried that it will repeat. I have just got to be safe. In these sorts of situations, you know, take everything seriously, don’t take any risks,” Thomas said.
Chinese health officials fear the transmission rate will accelerate, as hundreds of millions of Chinese travel at home and abroad during week-long holidays for the Lunar New Year.