Trump tweet may have given Taliban upper hand in peace negotiations

The Afghan government’s chief negotiator, Abdullah Abdullah, has warned that a recent tweet by Trump, in which he declared that the remaining US forces in Afghanistan “should” be home for Christmas, may further beleaguer the country’s already difficult peace and reconciliation process. (Reuters/File Photos)
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Updated 16 October 2020

Trump tweet may have given Taliban upper hand in peace negotiations

  • A Taliban spokesperson welcomed the president’s remarks
  • Roughly 5,000 US troops remain in the war-torn country, primarily to train local security forces

LONDON: US President Donald Trump’s tweet calling for US troops in Afghanistan to be home by Christmas may have given the Taliban the upper hand in peace negotiations, according to Afghanistan’s chief peace negotiator.

A complete US withdrawal from Afghanistan — after 19 years of war — is a major Taliban goal in their ongoing negotiations with the Afghan government, and Trump has made it clear that he would also see this as a foriegn policy victory.

Negotiations between the Taliban and government over a post-US power-sharing agreement have been slow and beset by ongoing violence in the country.

The Afghan government’s chief negotiator, Abdullah Abdullah, has warned that a recent tweet by Trump, in which he declared that the remaining US forces in Afghanistan “should” be home for Christmas, may further beleaguer the country’s already difficult peace and reconciliation process.

Abdullah told the Financial Times that the Taliban “might see it in their advantage” and come back by force if the US withdrew.

A Taliban spokesman, Zabihullah Mujahed, said he considered the comments a positive step for the implementation of the US-Taliban peace agreement, adding that the group remains “committed to the contents of the agreement and hope for good and positive relations with all countries.”

But concerns have regularly been raised by observers — much like those of Abdullah — that a complete US withdrawal could embolden the Taliban to abandon the peace process and seek to seize power.

“This would be a big disaster," a Pakistan Foreign Ministry official told the FT. “The Taliban who welcomed Trump’s remarks will then consider Afghanistan to be free to conquer and install an Islamist government,” they said.

The US currently has fewer than 5,000 troops remaining in the country as part of a NATO mission, down from a peak of over 100,000 in 2010.

The peace talks have so far yielded few results, though they were always expected to be long and arduous. They have been further complicated by a surge in violence in Afghanistan that has seen the US conduct airstrikes against the Taliban, and up to 5,600 families fleeing their homes in Helmand province.

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Updated 26 November 2020

Danish PM in tears after visiting mink farmer whose animals were culled

COPENHAGEN: Denmark’s Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen broke down on Thursday when visiting a mink farmer who lost his herd following the government’s order this month to cull all 17 million mink in the country to curb the spread of coronavirus.
Frederiksen has faced opposition calls to resign and a vote of no confidence in parliament after an order by the government in early November, which it later admitted was illegal, to cull the country’s entire mink population.
The order was given after authorities found COVID-19 outbreaks at hundreds of mink farms, including a new strain of the virus, suspected of being able to compromise the efficacy of vaccines.
“We have two generations of really skilled mink farmers, father and son, who in a very, very short time have had their life’s work shattered,” Frederiksen told reporters after a meeting with a mink farmer and his son at their farm near Kolding in Western Denmark.
“It has been emotional for them, and... Sorry. It has for me too,” Frederiksen said with a wavering voice, pausing for breath in between words.
The move to cull Denmark’s entire mink population, one of the world’s biggest and highly valued for the quality of its fur, has left the government reeling after it admitted it did not have the legal basis to order the culling of healthy mink.
After a tumultuous couple of weeks since the order was given on Nov. 4, the Minister of Agriculture, Mogens Jensen, stepped down last week after an internal investigation revealed a flawed political process.
Denmark has proposed a ban on all mink breeding in the country until 2022. Tage Pedersen, head of the Danish mink breeders’ association, said this month the industry, which employs around 6,000 people and exports fur pelts worth $800 million annually, is finished.
Denmark’s opposition says the cull of healthy mink should not have been initiated before compensation plans were in place for the owners and workers at some 1,100 mink farms.