US demands more from Taliban on cease-fire before deal

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

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.


Afghan VP pushes for execution of Taliban prisoners

Afghan VP pushes for execution of Taliban prisoners
Updated 19 January 2021

Afghan VP pushes for execution of Taliban prisoners

Afghan VP pushes for execution of Taliban prisoners
  • Taliban spokesman says first vice president wants to sabotage the peace talks

KABUL: Afghanistan’s First Vice President Amrullah Saleh on Monday demanded the execution of Taliban prisoners as violence surges in the country in spite of US-sponsored talks between the government and the militants.

Under mounting US pressure and following months of delay, Kabul released last summer thousands of Taliban prisoners from its custody as part of the landmark accord between the group and Washington.

But now there has been a spike in arrests of suspected Taliban fighters linked with recent attacks.

“These arrests should be executed so that it becomes a lesson for others,” Saleh told a routine security meeting in Kabul.

“The arrested like nightingales admit (to conducting attacks), but their all hope is that they will be freed one day without real punishment … any terrorist detainee should be executed.”

Known as the staunchest anti-Taliban leader in government and consistently opposed to talks with the Taliban, Saleh said he would raise his demand for the executions in the High Council of the Judiciary. His spokesman, Rezwan Murad, said the first vice president has also shared his demand with President Ashraf Ghani.

“Currently, around 1,000 Taliban prisoners have been sentenced to capital punishment,” Prison Administration spokesman in Kabul, Farhad Bayani, told Arab News.

“Such news is provoking, he wants to sabotage the process of talks,” said Zabihullah Mujahid, a Taliban spokesman, when reached by Arab News for reaction to Saleh’s push.

“We will severely take the revenge of any type of inhuman and cruel treatment of our prisoners.”

The Afghan government was excluded from the US and Taliban deal signed last February in Doha, which as per the agreement is also hosting the current peace talks between Kabul and the insurgents.

In spite of the ongoing talks, violence has surged in Afghanistan and both the government and the Taliban accuse each other for its escalation.

Hundreds of civilians have lost their lives in the violence, which has displaced tens of thousands of people since the February deal, while Kabul has endured a resurgence in assassination attacks and magnet bombs.

Prior to Saleh, some residents and lawmakers also demanded the executions of Taliban members suspected of being behind major attacks. Heather Barr, interim co-director for Human Rights Watch, told Arab News: “Human Rights Watch opposes the use of the death penalty under all circumstances. It is a uniquely cruel and irreversible punishment and we are glad to see that there has been some global progress towards abolition of the death penalty.”

She added: “Afghanistan has already seen so much violence and death and continues to experience this violence every day. There is an urgent need for accountability for the many human rights violations that have been inflicted during Afghanistan’s many years of war, but executions will not bring the justice Afghans so badly need.”