US will ‘soon regret’ closing door on talks, warn Taliban

President Donald Trump declared Monday that the US peace talks with the Taliban are now “dead.” (File/AFP)
Updated 11 September 2019

US will ‘soon regret’ closing door on talks, warn Taliban

  • Militants vow to continue fighting to drive American troops from Afghanistan

KABUL: The Taliban on Tuesday warned the US it would “soon regret” closing the door on Afghan peace talks after President Donald Trump said negotiations with the militants were “dead.”

In a statement to Arab News, the Taliban pledged to continue fighting to drive American troops from Afghanistan.

With presidential elections due to take place later this month, the UN described Afghanistan’s “volatile security situation” as “highly concerning,” while Russia said Trump’s decision to call off talks with the Taliban was a “negative sign” that could trigger an escalation of the 18-year-long conflict.

After nearly a year of intensive talks between US diplomats and Taliban delegates in Qatar, hopes had been running high that both sides would sign a peace deal last week.

However, after a US soldier was killed in a Taliban attack in Kabul last Thursday, Trump abruptly cancelled planned secret meetings on Sunday at his Camp David retreat with the Taliban and Afghan President Ashraf Ghani. 

“As far as I’m concerned, they (talks with the Taliban) are dead,” Trump told White House reporters.

Reacting to the US president’s announcement, Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said: “To end the US occupation in Afghanistan, we had two options. One was the path of jihad and struggle, the second was understanding and talks.

“If Trump has closed the door to talks then we will take the first option and they (the Americans) will soon regret it,” he said.

The Afghan government has so far made no comment about Trump’s decision. Kabul had been excluded from all the Qatar talks on the insistence of the Taliban and had serious reservations about them.

One of the main conditions of the planned peace deal had been the gradual withdrawal of US troops from Afghanistan with the Taliban vowing in return not to allow Afghan soil to be used against any country.

FAST FACTS

• The Taliban now control more Afghan territory than at any point before the 2001 US-led invasion.

• The militant group had refused to hold direct talks with the Afghan government until a timetable for the withdrawal of US troops had been finalized.

Following Trump’s drastic policy change, Ghani, who in the past had set no conditions for kick-starting negotiations with the Taliban, said on Monday that talks would not now be possible until the group agreed to a cease-fire.

Russia’s special envoy for Afghanistan, Zamir Kabulov, who has held talks with Taliban leaders and was instrumental in arranging two major rounds of intra-Afghan dialogue in Moscow, slammed Trump’s move as a “negative sign.”

Speaking to the Itar-Taas news agency, Kabulov said he feared the war in Afghanistan would now escalate. Russia and the Taliban have been pushing for a total departure of US-led troops from the country.

On Monday Trump said: “We’d like to get out (of Afghanistan) but we’ll get out at the right time.”

Abdul Satar Saadat, a former adviser to Ghani, said Trump had ditched talks with the Taliban because of internal pressures from those “who earn billions of dollars from selling and producing” military equipment.

“These people have a significant role in the elections in America, so Trump has taken this decision for his re-election bid,” Saadat told Arab News.

Trump had been criticized in some quarters for even entertaining the possibility of hosting the Taliban just days before the anniversary of the Sept. 11 terror attacks on the US. Like American and Afghan forces, the Taliban had never agreed to end their violent campaign against Afghan and foreign military while negotiations were taking place. Sixteen US troops have been killed this year.

Mujahid said discussions with the Americans had been going well until Saturday but pulling out of the peace process had shown the US’s lack of maturity and experience.

The Taliban now control more Afghan territory than at any point before the 2001 US-led invasion. The militant group had refused to hold direct talks with the Afghan government until a timetable for the withdrawal of US troops had been finalized. The Taliban have also been fighting with affiliates of Daesh in Afghanistan.

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said Daesh remained resilient in Afghanistan despite “a high pace” of operations against it by government and international forces. He urged all armed groups not to interfere in the upcoming presidential elections.

The UN chief said in a report to the Security Council on Monday that between mid-June and early September, 183 incidents were attributed to Daesh fighters — nearly double the 93 incidents during the same period in 2018.

Guterres said Afghanistan’s “volatile security situation is highly concerning,” citing direct threats to the presidential election, scheduled for Sept. 28, “by anti-government elements that may discourage many Afghans from voting.”

He called on the Taliban and other armed groups, including Daesh, “to desist from threatening or targeting electoral staff, candidates or voters.” He also urged anti-government forces to refrain from damaging electoral sites and to allow the Afghan people “to exercise their political rights in safety and without fear of violence.”


Anti-government protesters block roads in Pakistan as unrest mounts

Updated 14 November 2019

Anti-government protesters block roads in Pakistan as unrest mounts

  • Tens of thousands of demonstrators joined a sit-in in Islamabad on Oct. 31 and camped there for about two weeks
  • Firebrand cleric leading the protests called for nationwide demonstrations

ISLAMABAD: Anti-government protesters in Pakistan blocked major roads and highways across the country on Thursday in a bid to force Prime Minister Imran Khan to resign.
The demonstrators — led by the leader of opposition party Jamiat-e-Ulema-e-Islam (JUI-F), the firebrand cleric Maulana Fazlur Rehman — have taken to the streets as the start of their “Plan B” to topple the government and ensure a general election after failing to push Khan out through a fortnight-long sit-in in Islamabad, which ended on Wednesday.
That same day, Rehman told his party workers to spread their protests to other parts of the country.
“This protest will continue not for a day but for a month, if our leadership instructs,” said JUI-F Secretary-General, Maulana Nasir Mehmood, to a group of protesters who blocked the country’s main Karakoram Highway — an important trade route between Pakistan and China that also connects the country’s Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) province with its northern areas.
The JUI-F protesters also blocked other key routes in KP and a major highway connecting the provinces of Sindh and Balochistan. The party’s Balochistan chapter also announced its intention to block the highway connecting Pakistan to neighboring Iran.
Tens of thousands of demonstrators joined the sit-in in Islamabad on Oct. 31 and camped there for about two weeks, demanding the prime minister’s resignation and fresh polls in the country following allegations of electoral fraud last year and the mismanagement of Pakistan’s economy. The government denies both charges.
Rehman is a veteran politician who was a member of the National Assembly for 20 years. He enjoys support in religious circles across the country. His party has yet to share a detailed plan regarding which roads will be closed when, or how long this new phase of protests will continue.
The JUI-F and other opposition parties have been trying to capitalize on the anger and frustration of the public against the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf ruling party, which came to power last year promising 10 million new jobs for the youth, 5 million low-cost houses, and economic reforms to benefit the middle class.
Since then, Pakistan’s economy has nosedived, witnessing double-digit inflation and rampant unemployment. The government signed a $6-billion bailout deal with the International Monetary Fund to stave off a balance-of-payments crisis.
“Prime Minister Imran Khan has stabilized the deteriorating economy, and Maulana Fazlur Rehman ‘Plan B’ will fail like his ‘Plan A,’” Firdous Ashiq Awan, special assistant to the prime minister on information and broadcasting, said in a statement to the press.

Related