Kabul: Fifteen diplomatic missions and the NATO representative in Kabul have joined hands to urge the Taliban to halt military offensives across Afghanistan, just hours after a peace meeting in Doha failed to agree on a ceasefire. A senior delegation of Afghan leaders met the Taliban’s political leadership in the Qatari capital over the last two days, but a Taliban statement made no mention of a halt to Afghanistan’s rising violence.
The joint statement was supported by Australia, Canada, the Czech Republic, Denmark, the European Union delegation, Finland, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Korea, the Netherlands, Spain, Sweden, Britain and the United States and NATO’s senior civilian representative. “The Taliban’s offensive is in direct contradiction to their claim to support a negotiated settlement,” said the joint statement.
The statement by the 15 missions also condemned rights violations, such as efforts to shut schools and media outfits reported by media in areas recently captured by the Taliban, which has previously denied such assertions. Meetings between Afghan leaders and the Taliban in Doha discussed ways to reach a political settlement to end the conflict, the chairman of Afghanistan’s high council for peace, Abdullah Abdullah, who was a part of the talks, said. “We agreed to continue the talks, seek a political settlement to the current crisis, avoid civilian casualties, facilitate humanitarian assistance & medical supplies to tackle Covid-19 pandemic,” Abdullah said on Twitter.
Bid to check Taliban surge
A Taliban forces took control of key border posts, opened up fresh sources of revenue and rattled many of Afghanistan’s neighbours. In the Uzbek capital of Tashkent, a two-day regional meeting that was originally supposed to deal with “connectivity” in South and Central Asia morphed into a high-level gathering of senior US, Russian and EU officials that most certainly will be consumed with Afghanistan and the impact of the rapidly advancing Taliban.
In recent weeks, the Taliban have gained control of key border posts with neighbours Iran, Pakistan, Uzbekistan and Tajikistan. The Tashkent meeting will have representatives of US homeland security as well as Washington’s special Afghan peace envoy, Zalmay Khalilzad. Also attending are Russian foreign minister Sergey Lavrov and EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell, as well as Afghan President Ashraf Ghani and Pakistan PM Minister Imran Khan. The goals of the gathering are now unclear. The fear is not only over Taliban gains; without a peace deal, Afghanistan’s many warlords may turn to a new, destructive civil war among themselves to seek power or preserve their interests. “We call on countries of the region and the broader international community to play a constructive role in support of the Afghan peace process,” Borrell said, adding he will make a personal plea at the Tashkent conference.
Af, Pakistan faceoff
Pakistan rejected allegations of Afghan President Ashraf Ghani and first vice-president Amrollah Saleh blaming Islamabad for its negative role in the “Afghan peace process” and openly supporting the Taliban against the Kabul government. The Afghan president had accused networks and organisations in Pakistan of supporting the Taliban while addressing an international conference on ‘Central and South Asia Regional Connectivity: Challenges and Opportunities’ in Uzbekistan. Ghani claimed that the destruction of the assets and capabilities of the Afghan people are openly celebrated in Pakistan. It was an indirect reference to rallies that were recently held in the cities of Peshawar in the northwest and Quetta in the southwest by the Pakistani sympathisers of the Taliban in support of the insurgent group. Ghani, quoting intelligence estimates, said that around 10,000 jihadi fighters had entered into Afghanistan from Pakistan and other places in the past one month apart from the support of their affiliates in the transnational terrorist organizations.
Taliban claim control of key areas
Taliban fighters said they had taken control of one of the main border crossings with Pakistan. A Pakistani official said fighters had taken down the Afghan government flag from atop the Friendship Gate at the border crossing between the Pakistani town of Chaman and the Afghan town of Wesh. The crossing, south of Afghanistan’s main southern city Kandahar, is the landlocked country’s second busiest entry point and the main link between its vast southwest and Pakistani ports. Afghan government data show it is used by 900 trucks a day. The takeover forced Pakistan to seal parts of its border with Afghanistan after heavy fighting between Taliban and Afghan forces around Wesh.
Afghan officials said government forces had pushed back the Taliban fighters and were in control of the Spin Boldak border district in Kandahar province. But civilians and Pakistani officials said the Taliban controlled the Wesh border posts. “Wesh, which has great importance in Afghan trade with Pakistan and other countries, has been captured by the Taliban,” said a Pakistani security official deployed at the border area. Officials in Chaman said the Taliban had suspended all travel through the gate.
China advice to Taliban
In a significant statement on the Taliban, China has asked it to make a “clean break” from all terrorist forces, especially the al-Qaida backed Uighur Muslim militant group ETIM fighting for the volatile Xinjiang province’s independence. During a joint press conference with Tajik foreign minister at Dushanbe, Chinese foreign minister Wang Yi stressed that further spread of the war in Afghanistan, especially an all-out civil war, should be avoided and pitched for restarting of intra-Afghan negotiations to realise political reconciliation and prevention of all kinds of terrorist forces from gaining ground in Afghanistan.