Sunday, 17 February, 2019

Pakistan starts behind-scenes aid to US-Taliban talks

US Afghan envoy Zalmay Khalilzad wants peace deal before July vote US heightens attacks on Taliban to gain leverage in peace talks: NYT
Kenny Thornton | 11 February, 2019, 11:24

He described the present state of negotiations as having taken two or three steps on a long journey.

Speaking at the US Institute of Peace here, Khalilzad acknowledged that the US and the Taliban had reached a framework agreement in Doha last month, but more talks were needed for reaching a conclusion.

Getting American troops out of Afghanistan, where they have been either fighting the Taliban or advising Afghan government forces since October 2001, is the top priority for the Taliban officials he has talked with, Khalilzad said.

Critics are skeptical for a number of reasons, primarily because talks have not yet included the Afghan government, which the Taliban considers US-backed puppets.

The Pakistani assistance, which has not been reported in such detail before, also includes exerting pressure on Taliban leaders who fail to cooperate, including by detaining members of the militants' families, the insurgents say.

There were six days of peace talks in Doha - where Hanafi said the timetable had been set - but there have also been talks elsewhere as the insurgents meet top officials from Asia, Europe and beyond to reach a political settlement aimed at ending the war. "My overall goal is, at the direction of the president and the secretary of state, not to seek a withdrawal agreement but a peace agreement", he said.

"We will not just rely on people's words", he said, adding that there would have to be "enforcement mechanisms", which he did not define.

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Last year, the United States dropped more than 7,000 bombs, missiles and other munitions on extremists in Afghanistan - up from 2,365 in 2014, the Times said, citing military data.

"After many conversations, we have reached an agreement in principle with the Taliban on a framework that would provide guarantees, and enforcement mechanism that no terrorist group, global terrorist group or individuals would be able to use Afghanistan, the areas that they control and should they be part of a future government; against the United States as allies and others", Khalilzad said.

"We are in the early stage of a protracted process", he said.

The Afghan Taliban has said that despite the ongoing talks with the United States and other regional powers, it had "not yet reached" any conclusion that would entail an immediate end to hostilities against America and its allies, according to a media report. "The Afghans must sit across the table with each other and come to an agreement about the future of their country", he said.

Additionally, the Taliban have promised not to shelter foreign extremists, but experts say they can not be trusted and even now are helping to hide such militants.

Even the USA has to admit that Russian Federation played a "positive role" in the Afghan peace process, and rushed to call for peace talks itself. The US invaded Afghanistan in October 2001, accusing the Taliban of harboring Osama Bin Laden, the accused mastermind of the 9/11 terrorist attacks in NY and Washington.

"We first and foremost have to put an end to the occupation and then focus on resolving our internal issues".

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