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.”


Patten says China pursuing ‘Orwellian’ agenda in Hong Kong

Updated 2 min 36 sec ago

Patten says China pursuing ‘Orwellian’ agenda in Hong Kong

  • Chris Patten defended London’s announcement that it would grant residency and a path to citizenship for nearly 3 million Hong Kong residents
  • China shocked many of Hong Kong’s 7.5 million people when it announced earlier this month that it will enact a national security law for the city

BEIJING: The last British governor of Hong Kong criticized the Chinese government on Friday over proposed national security legislation, calling it part of an “Orwellian” drive to eliminate opposition in violation of the agreement on handing the territory over to Beijing.
Chris Patten defended London’s announcement that it would grant residency and a path to citizenship for nearly 3 million Hong Kong residents if Beijing goes through with passage of the legislation.
The law is seen as potentially imposing severe restrictions on freedom of speech and opposition political activity in the former British colony that was handed over to Chinese rule in 1997. China has denounced the offer of citizenship as a violation of its sovereignty.
“If they’ve broken the (Sino-British) Joint Declaration, if they’ve thrown it overboard, how can they then use the joint declaration as though it stops us doing something that’s a sovereign right of ours?” said Patten, now chancellor of the University of Oxford, in an online talk with reporters.
The declaration is a bilateral treaty signed as part of the handover process. China has essentially declared it null and void, while Britain says Beijing is reneging on its commitments made in the document that was supposed to be remain in effect until 2047.
China shocked many of Hong Kong’s 7.5 million people when it announced earlier this month that it will enact a national security law for the city, which was promised a high level of autonomy outside of foreign and defense affairs.
An earlier push to pass security legislation was shelved after massive Hong Kong street protests against it in 2003. However, Beijing appeared to lose patience after months of sometimes violent anti-government protests in Hong Kong last year that China said was an attempt to split the territory off from the rest of the country.
Patten said the security legislation is unnecessary because Hong Kong’s legal code already includes provisions to combat terrorism, financial crimes and other threats to security.
“What Beijing wants is something which deals with those rather worrying Orwellian crimes like sedition, whatever that may be,” Patten said.
China may also be seeking grounds to disqualify opposition candidates from running in September’s election for the local legislature by accusing them of being disloyal, he said.
Beijing has ignored promises that Hong Kong could democratize of its own accord after the handover, Patten said. The US should unite with other democratic countries to oppose underhanded tactics by Beijing, he said.
“It’s the Chinese Communist Party which attacks us, which hectors, which bullies, which tells companies which have roots in our countries, that unless they do what China wants, they won’t get any business in China,” Patten said. “That’s the way the Mafia behave, and the rest of the world shouldn’t put up with it, because if we do, liberal democracies are going to be screwed.”