US demands more from Taliban on cease-fire before deal

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said a deal is close but that they have been close before and failed because the Taliban was unable to demonstrate seriousness. (AFP)
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Updated 03 February 2020

US demands more from Taliban on cease-fire before deal

  • ‘What we are demanding now is demonstrable evidence of their will and capacity to reduce violence, to take down the threat’
  • Talks in recent weeks have focused on finding a way to reduce hostilities and bring both sides in the conflict to the negotiating table

TASHKENT, Uzbekistan: US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Monday demanded “demonstrable evidence” from the Taliban that they can and will reduce violence before signing a deal that would lead to Afghanistan peace talks and a withdrawal of American troops from the country.
Speaking at a news conference in neighboring Uzbekistan, Pompeo said a deal is close but that they have been close before and failed because the Taliban was unable to demonstrate seriousness. He said more work remains to be done so that peace talks can get started.
“We’re working on a peace and reconciliation plan, putting the commas in the right place, getting the sentences right,” he said. “We got close once before to having an agreement: a piece of paper that we mutually executed and the Taliban were unable to demonstrate either their will or capacity or both to deliver on a reduction in violence.”
“So, what we are demanding now is demonstrable evidence of their will and capacity to reduce violence, to take down the threat, so the inter-Afghan talks ... will have a less violent context,” he said. “We’re hopeful we can achieve that but we’re not there yet, and work certainly remains.”
Pompeo’s comments came just two days after US peace envoy Zalmay Khalilzad arrived in Kabul and told Afghan President Ashraf Ghani there has been “no notable progress” in talks with the Taliban. However, Khalilzad said he was hopeful of reaching an understanding with them on a reduction of hostilities, without offering any time frame.
Khalilzad had been in Pakistan last week to rally support for getting an agreement with the Taliban to reduce their attacks, as a first step toward a peace agreement to end 18 years of war in neighboring Afghanistan.
Earlier, the Taliban said they offered Khalilzad a 10-day cease-fire window in which to sign a peace agreement that would be followed by intra-Afghan negotiations.
Khalilzad was appointed by the White House in 2018 to find a negotiated end to Afghanistan’s war that would allow the United States to bring home its estimated 13,000 soldiers and end its longest military engagement.
He has held multiple rounds of talks with the Taliban in the Mideastern state of Qatar where the militant group maintains a political office.
Talks in recent weeks have focused on finding a way to reduce hostilities and bring both sides in the conflict to the negotiating table. Until now the Taliban have refused to talk to Afghan President Ghani’s government. Ghani has also been unable to agree on a negotiating team with Abdullah who is currently his partner in Afghanistan’s so-called Unity Government. Abdallah accuses the president of foiling efforts at peace by imposing new conditions on talks.
Ghani and Abdullah were the leading contenders in last September’s presidential polls. The voting was mired in controversy and is still without a final result.


China raises flood alert to second highest level

Updated 12 July 2020

China raises flood alert to second highest level

  • Regional flooding in the Poyang county of Jiangxi has made water levels of China’s Lake Poyang surge to above 22.52 meters
BEIJING/SINGAPORE: China on Sunday raised its flood response alert to the second highest grade as downpours continued to batter regions along the Yangtze River, with the eastern provinces of Jiangsu and Jiangxi among the worst hit, state media reported.
Regional flooding in the Poyang county of Jiangxi has made water levels of China’s Lake Poyang, its biggest freshwater lake, surge to above 22.52 meters, a historical high and well above the alert level of 19.50 meters.
By Saturday evening, provincial military authorities had dispatched thousands of soldiers to help bolster nearly 9 km (6 miles) of the lake’s banks to prevent them from bursting, state television said.
China has a four-tier flood control emergency response system, with level one representing the most severe.
Citing data from the Ministry of Water Resources, 212 rivers have since early July exceeded alerting levels including 19 of them rising to historical highs.
China has blamed extreme weather conditions as a result of climate change for the torrential rain that has since June hit large swathes of the country and caused over 60 billion yuan ($8.57 billion) of economic losses.