KABUL: The Afghan Taliban has called on US President-elect Joe Biden to abide by the landmark accord which the outgoing administration signed with the group to secure the total departure of all foreign troops by next spring.
Speaking with Arab News, two officials from the movement said it turned down an offer from President Ashraf Ghani to change the location of the US-sponsored talks from Qatar to Afghanistan.
Biden has not commented on the accord, which the special envoy for the outgoing administration Zalmay Khalilzad signed with the Taliban last February, following nearly two years of intensive and secret talks. He has hinted at keeping some forces in Afghanistan.
The Afghan government, which was kept away from the accord, has called on Biden to review the deal with the Taliban and prolong the presence of US forces, which have been present since an invasion in late-2001 to oust the Taliban’s Islamic Emirate.
Dr. Mohammad Naeem Wardak, a spokesman for the Taliban, called on Biden to respect the February accord that brought delegates of the movement and the Afghan government’s negotiators to Qatar to find a political roadmap for ending Afghanistan’s decades of conflict.
“There is an agreement between the Islamic Emirate and the US signed by the two sides, and great efforts have been made to reach it,” Wardak told Arab News.
“Commitment to this agreement by both sides will solve the problems of Afghanistan.”
He added that a “lack of sincerity, dishonesty and lack of commitment to commitments” may derail the Qatar talks with Afghan government. The negotiations began on Sept. 12 and both sides only recently agreed on a mechanism for the complicated process before suspending the discussions until Jan. 5 for consultation with their respective leaders.
Both Wardak and Zabihullah Mujahid, a spokesman who serves for the both the political and military affairs of the Taliban, rejected Ghani’s proposal last week to hold future talks in southern Kandahar, the birthplace of the Taliban in Afghanistan.
Mujahid said due to lack of trust such talks cannot be held on Afghan soil and because of a possible risk to the Taliban’s negotiators if the talks fail.
“It will be better for both negotiating teams to decide together on the venue for the talks. The location of the talks is not important, to make an agreement is important and to convince each other in the talks is important,” he told Arab News.
“For us it is also important to convene the talks inside Afghanistan … but you know there is no safe atmosphere, the airspace of Afghanistan is not under our control. There are important figures in our negotiations team who may want to go and see the leadership for consultation about the peace process and the enemies can easily detect their location. We do not have trust in the enemy now.”
A commentary posted on the Taliban’s website said Ghani’s insistence on changing the location of the talks was part of an effort to derail the peace process altogether.
“Since the opening ceremony and first meeting between the Islamic Emirate and other parties to the Afghan conflict, the Kabul administration has left no stone unturned to sabotage and delay the peace talks to prolong its unlawful rule and then blame the Islamic Emirate for delays.”
Former President Hamid Karzai, who has been involved indirectly in the talks on Sunday, said both sides will resume the parleys as planned on Jan. 5 in Qatar as planned, warning both sides not to miss the opportunity for ending the war.
“The peace process indeed is the best opportunity, rather, I should say the only opportunity, for Afghans to get rid of this conflict,” he told Arab News.
“This is a foreign-imposed conflict, this is not our conflict, it is a conflict in which the interests of other countries are served against us, against our interest, against our wellbeing. It is upon us to use to the best of our ability for tranquility and stability of our country.”