US official warns Taliban attacks could derail Afghan peace

US official warns Taliban attacks could derail Afghan peace
Afghan security at the site of a suicide car bombing in Ghor province, on Sunday that killed at least a dozen and wounded more than 100 others. (AP)
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Updated 20 October 2020

US official warns Taliban attacks could derail Afghan peace

US official warns Taliban attacks could derail Afghan peace
  • Khalilzad urges militant group to honor ‘historic opportunity’ and end decades of war

KABUL: The US Special Representative for Afghanistan Reconciliation warned on Monday that increasing attacks by the Taliban could undermine the historic peace deal signed between Washington and the militant group in February.

Zalmay Khalilzad also said the strikes could derail the ongoing intra-Afghan talks in Doha, Qatar, that look to end the protracted conflict in the country.

“Continued high levels of violence can threaten the peace process and the agreement, and the core understanding that there is no military solution. Violence today remains distressingly high in spite of the recent reaffirmation of the need for a substantial reduction,” he said in tweets on Monday.

Since last week, the Taliban have unleashed a series of attacks in parts of Afghanistan, particularly in the southern Helmand province, where more than 35,000 people have been displaced over recent days, Afghan officials told Arab News.

In response, US forces in the country launched several airstrikes on Taliban positions, which the insurgent group described as a breach of the February accord on Sunday.

Responding to the Taliban’s accusations, Khalilzad said they were “unfounded charges of violations and inflammatory rhetoric,” and “do not advance peace.”

Washington also accused the Taliban of breaking the historic agreement, which, among other things, looks to finalize a complete withdrawal of US-led troops from the country.

Khalilzad said the airstrikes were conducted to support Afghan troops as part of Washington’s commitment to defend them, if necessary.

He added that the Taliban attacks in Helmand, including some in the provincial capital that targeted Afghan security forces, led to a recent meeting in Doha where both sides agreed to “decrease attacks and strikes.” And while levels of violence in Helmand have fallen, it “remains high” across the country, the Afghan-born diplomat added.

Some Afghan observers said the motive behind Taliban attacks was to gain an “upper hand” in negotiations.

However, Khalilzad warned of the risks involved in using this strategy.

“The belief that says violence must escalate to win concessions at the negotiations table is risky. Such an approach can undermine the peace process and repeats past miscalculation by Afghan leaders,” he said, urging all sides to honor the “historic opportunity for peace, which must not be missed.”

Zabihullah Mujahid, a Taliban spokesman, told Arab News on Monday that the group had “no comment” on Khalilzad’s statements and that US forces had “violated the Doha agreement in various forms by carrying out excessive airstrikes.”

Mujahid added that he had “no information” on the state of attacks in Helmand province.

However, Omar Zwak, a spokesman for Helmand’s governor, told Arab News that “fighting subsided in various parts of Helmand” over the past two days.

Meanwhile, an anonymous senior official in President Ashraf Ghani’s government praised Khalilzad for “beginning to get realistic” and “breaking silence over repeated Taliban attacks.”

Another figure, Kabul-based lawmaker Fawzia Zaki, said: “The government and Afghan people, in general, insisted on enforcement of a cease-fire or a drastic reduction of violence before the beginning of the intra-Afghan dialogue.”

For it to be effective, Khalilzad and Washington “need to exert growing pressure to make them listen to the righteous demands of ours,” Zaki added.

However, experts have warned of the “growing impatience” of both sides.

Shafiq Haqpal, an analyst, told Arab News: “Khalilzad’s comments clearly show that Washington is becoming impatient with Taliban attacks and the lack of progress in the talks.”

He said that US President Donald Trump is “hoping to see a breakthrough soon,” so that he can “portray it as a success of his administration for his re-election campaign.

“But that is not happening. Maybe Washington has realized that won’t happen, so they are beginning to come out and warn the Taliban against the consequences of their attacks,” Haqpal added.


US judge orders Trump administration to restore ‘Dreamer’ immigration program

Updated 10 min 2 sec ago

US judge orders Trump administration to restore ‘Dreamer’ immigration program

US judge orders Trump administration to restore ‘Dreamer’ immigration program
  • Then-president Barack Obama instituted DACA by executive order in 2012 to help some of the more than 10 million people estimated to be living in America without documentation

WASHINGTON: A US judge ordered the Trump administration Friday to fully reinstate a program that protects from deportation immigrants who came to the country illegally as children.
The administration must allow newly eligible immigrants to apply to the so-called DACA program, Judge Nicholas Garaufis of the US District Court in Brooklyn wrote.
Over the summer, the administration had issued a memo limiting the program to those who were already enrolled.
Then-president Barack Obama instituted DACA by executive order in 2012 to help some of the more than 10 million people estimated to be living in America without documentation.
DACA protected an estimated 700,000 people known as Dreamers, offering protection at renewable two-year periods, including authorization to work.
It applied to people who were brought into the United States illegally as children and then grew up here. For many it is the only country they have ever known.
DACA stands for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals.
As part of his crackdown on all kinds of immigration, Trump moved to end the program in 2017, calling it unconstitutional.
The case ended up in the US Supreme Court, which ruled in June that the Trump administration had not followed proper administrative procedures to end the policy.
But in response, the Department of Homeland Security reinstated it only partially. It limited DACA to those already enrolled, rather than allow new applicants as well. And it cut the length of DACA permit renewals to one year, rather than the two years the program had allowed.
On Friday, Garaufis said Homeland Security must announce the full reinstatement of DACA on its website by Monday.
More than 300,000 new applicants could now be eligible for DACA, the Center for American Progress think tank said.
“This is a really big day for DACA recipients and immigrant young people,” said Karen Tumlin, director of the Justice Action Center, who litigated the class-action case.
Immigration is a hot button issue in the US, and Congress over the years has failed repeatedly to pass reform legislation dealing with the millions of people living in the country without authorization.
Prospects for Dreamers to live and work in the US permanently, rather than just with renewable permits, remain unclear.
President-elect Joe Biden has vowed to restore DACA when he takes office in January.