Long-evasive Afghan peace deal to be signed on Feb. 29

In this photo taken on February 17, 2020, Afghan National Army (ANA) soldiers take part in a military exercise at a base in Guzara district in Herat province. (AFP)
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Updated 22 February 2020

Long-evasive Afghan peace deal to be signed on Feb. 29

  • America-Taliban 7-day ‘reduction in violence’ to start on Saturday

KABUL: A seven-day period of a “reduction in violence” in Afghanistan, a key condition by the US to sign a peace deal with the Taliban, will start at midnight Afghan time, a government spokesman confirmed on Friday.

The reduction in violence, which is not a cease-fire, follows months of talks between the US and the armed group to sign an agreement that would pave the way for an intra-Afghan dialogue and initiate the departure of US troops from the country.
“It begins on Saturday at 12 a.m., 22nd of February,” National Security Council spokesman Javid Faisal told reporters. “We are hoping that the other side (the Taliban) will reduce violence as per the commitments. Required and necessary guidance has been given to Afghan forces in this regard,” he added, but gave no further details.
Interior Minister Masood Andarabi earlier this week spelled out parts of the plan. “The Taliban have committed to preventing (not conducting) suicide attacks, blasts and rocket strikes during this period and will observe a significant reduction of violence,” he said.
The NATO-led Resolute Support Mission will also hold back on its operations but will back Afghan forces if they are attacked, according to two security sources unauthorized to talk to the media. A US-Afghan monitoring team will observe Taliban activity during the period.
Presidential spokesman Sediq Sediqqi said on Thursday that President Ashraf Ghani discussed issues related to the Afghan peace deal and details of the “significant reduction in violence” with Zalmay Khalilzad, the chief US negotiator, who has been in Kabul for the past two days. But Ghani has been excluded from talks because the Taliban sees his administration as a “puppet” of the West.

FASTFACT

The reduction in violence, which is not a cease-fire, follows months of talks between the US and the armed group to sign an agreement that would initiate the departure of US troops.

Hours after the violence reduction announcement by Faisal, the Taliban said in a statement that it would sign the peace deal with Washington on Feb. 29.
“Following lengthy negotiations between the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan and the United States of America, both parties agreed to sign the finalized accord in the presence of international observers on the 5th of Rajab Al-Murajab 1441 (Hijri Lunar) corresponding with the 10th of Hoot 1398 (Hijri Solar) and 29th of February 2019 (Gregorian),” said Zabihullah Mujahid, a Taliban spokesman.
The Feb. 29 date was also cited by US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. “We are preparing for the signing to take place on February 29,” he said. “Intra-Afghan negotiations will start soon thereafter.”
The violence reduction plan and push for signing the deal comes days after Ghani was officially declared the winner of last year’s disputed presidential polls.
The declaration resulted in further political turmoil, with Ghani’s archrival Chief Executive Dr. Abdullah Abdullah blasting the result and threatening to form his own government.
Ghani and Abdullah have been at loggerheads ever since they first assumed power in a joint national unity government formed through a US-brokered deal following the disputed 2014 election.

Related


Somalia names new PM, announces plan for national elections

Members of new parliament look on after they were sworn-in at Adan Adde airport in Mogadishu. Somalia is likely to hold elections next year. (AFP/File)
Updated 19 September 2020

Somalia names new PM, announces plan for national elections

  • The UN had described the pursuit of one-person, one-vote elections as a “historic milestone” on Somalia’s path to full democratization and peace after decades of war and violent instability in the Horn of Africa nation

MOGADISHU: Somalia’s President Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed has appointed a new prime minister hours after brokering an agreement with regional leaders for elections next year that abandons a promised one-person, one-vote model.
Mohamed’s office announced late Thursday the appointment of Mohamed Hussein Roble, a Swedish-trained civil engineer and political neophyte, and “wished him to take duties and tasks ahead with diligence.”
He fills a vacancy left when former Premier Hassan Ali Khaire was removed by parliament in July for failing to pave the way for fully democratic elections due before February 2021.
The foreign-backed government in Mogadishu has been in drawn-out negotiations with Somalia’s federal states over how to proceed with parliamentary and presidential elections.
However, the process has been held up by political infighting between the president — better known by his nickname Farmajo — and the country’s regional leaders.
Somalia had set itself the goal of holding its first fully democratic, one-man, one-vote election since 1969 — as opposed to a complex system in which special delegates pick lawmakers who then vote for the president.
But an agreement reached between the president, five regional leaders and the mayor of Mogadishu has conceded that such a vote would be impossible within the time frame remaining before Somalia’s parliament expires in November, and Farmajo’s term ends in February.
In an official communique, the negotiators said delegates from Somalia’s myriad clans would elect the 275 MPs of the lower house, which in turn chooses the president.

SPEEDREAD

The foreign-backed government in Mogadishu has been in drawn-out negotiations with Somalia’s federal states over how to proceed with parliamentary and presidential elections.

While the process mirrors the last election held in 2017, it will go a bit further in terms of inclusivity, with 27,775 delegates voting — almost twice as many as last time.
No timeline was given, and it remains unclear what role the country’s independent election commission will play, with the federal and state governments to appoint their own agencies to oversee their respective polls.
The plan still needs to be approved by Somalia’s parliament.
The UN had described the pursuit of one-person, one-vote elections as a “historic milestone” on Somalia’s path to full democratization and peace after decades of war and violent instability in the Horn of Africa nation.
But observers had warned that such a goal was looking increasingly unlikely due to tensions with the states, technical aspects such as voter registration, and security challenges posed by the Al-Shabab militant group.
The fragile central government, chaired by Farmajo, controls only a part of Somali territory and relies on an international peacekeeping force to confront a violent insurgency from Al-Shabab in the countryside.
Mogadishu had been criticized by observers for engaging in political feuds with federal states to gain control in the election process, rather than focusing on the fight against the militants.