Taliban ‘ready to hold talks’ with US peace envoy in Pakistan

Taliban ‘ready to hold talks’ with US peace envoy in Pakistan
Members of a Taliban delegation, led by chief negotiator Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar (C, front), leave after peace talks with Afghan senior politicians in Moscow, Russia May 30, 2019. (Reuters)
Updated 03 October 2019

Taliban ‘ready to hold talks’ with US peace envoy in Pakistan

Taliban ‘ready to hold talks’ with US peace envoy in Pakistan
  • Insurgents’ delegation will be led by Taliban cofounder Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar

ISLAMABAD: A high-level delegation from the Afghan Taliban will hold talks on “important issues” with US peace envoy Zalmay Khalilzad in Pakistan, the insurgent group’s political spokesman said on Wednesday, though a US official denied Khalilzad’s visit to Islamabad was part of the formal peace process.

The Taliban delegation, led by Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, the group’s cofounder, was expected to reach Pakistan on Wednesday, a day after Khalilzad — the top US diplomat involved in talks with the militants — arrived in Islamabad.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Islamabad confirmed in a statement on Wednesday that Pakistan has officially extended an invitation to the Taliban Political Commission (TPC) in Doha.

“The visit will provide an opportunity to review the progress made under US-Taliban peace talks so far, and the possibilities of resuming the political settlement process in Afghanistan,” the statement said.

The Taliban’s visit is the latest stop on a tour of regional powers and comes after efforts by the militants and the US to reach a deal allowing for the withdrawal of US-led foreign forces from Afghanistan.

HIGHLIGHT

• The Taliban’s visit is the latest stop on a tour of regional powers and comes after efforts by the militants and the US to reach a deal allowing for the withdrawal of US-led foreign forces from Afghanistan.

Last week, US President Donald Trump also met Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan in America and discussed the Afghan peace process.

“We have stated on several occasions that we are ready for the resumption of the talks with Khalilzad in Pakistan if he is willing,” Taliban spokesman Suhail Shaheen said via phone from Doha, where the group’s political office is based. “There is no problem from our side.”

A spokesperson from the US Embassy in Islamabad said that Khalilzad this week was “participating in consultations with Pakistani counterparts. These consultations follow discussions held between the United States and Pakistan during the United Nations General Assembly in New York last week.”

The US has long considered Pakistani cooperation as crucial to ending the decades-long war in Afghanistan.

Trump last month halted peace talks with the Taliban aimed at striking a deal allowing US and other foreign troops to withdraw in exchange for Taliban security guarantees, following the death of a US soldier and 11 others in a Taliban bomb attack in Kabul.

Sediq Sediqqi, a spokesman for Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, said on Twitter that the Afghan government should be involved in any peace process: “No progress will be imminent if a peace process is not owned and led by the Afghan government,” he said.

The Taliban have refused to negotiate with the Afghan government, dismissing it as a US puppet. Taliban officials have in recent days visited Russia, China and Iran.

The Taliban delegation is due to meet with the Foreign Minister of Pakistan, Shah Mahmood Qureshi, according to an official statement by the Foreign Office.


French troops kill over 20 extremists in Burkina Faso

French troops kill over 20 extremists in Burkina Faso
Updated 21 January 2021

French troops kill over 20 extremists in Burkina Faso

French troops kill over 20 extremists in Burkina Faso

PARIS: More than 20 militants have been killed by French troops this month in Burkina Faso near the border with troubled Mali, the French military said Thursday.
One of the poorest countries in the world, Burkina Faso is struggling with a ruthless insurgency by armed Islamists who swept in from neighbouring Mali in 2015.
Almost 1,100 people have died and more than a million people have fled their homes.
French Tigre helicopters on Saturday "neutralised" a "suspicious convoy of 30 motorcycles" on Burkinabe territory near the Mali town of Boulikessi in which some 10 extremists were killed, said Colonel Frederic Barbry, spokesman for the French defence staff.
The same day, a French drone struck a four-wheel drive vehicle heading for Mali, he said.
On Sunday, French helicopters fired on a convoy of 40 motorbikes "allowing us to stop the convoy and neutralise more than 10 armed terrorists and destroy about 10 motorbikes," Barbry added.
France has deployed troops in the region to fight extremists.