Lahore: the government of Afghanistan said Saturday that there are still opportunities for peace in the war-ravaged country, but that the Taliban should shun violence first to engage in direct negotiations with Kabul.
“There is a possibility for peace, on the condition that the Taliban renounce violence and agree to direct negotiations with the Afghan government,” Sediq Seddiqi, chief press Secretary to the President Ashraf Ghani, told Arab news.
His comments came a day after US special envoy for Afghanistan Zalmay Khalilzad said that the inter-Afghan negotiations was “never” was as close as they currently were.
“This is an important moment for Afghanistan and the region — perhaps at the decisive moment,” Khalilzad, who has signed a historic deal with the Taliban in Doha, Qatar, in late February of this year, said Friday, speaking at a virtual event organized in Washington, United States Institute of peace.
On Thursday, the Taliban said, for the first time, the date for starting talks with Kabul after tightening them twice in connection with the preliminary conditions established by the group and the government Ghani.
Confirming messages, Suhail Shaheen, a spokesman for the Taliban in the Qatar office, said that negotiations could begin after the Eid al-Adha, which is celebrated by Muslims around the world in 10 days, while the “Kabul released the prisoners,” the list for which is with the government.
Ghani government, which was away from the Qatar talks, refused to free hundreds of Taliban prisoners, as required by the group, which will review more than 4,000 militants have released from Afghan prisons in recent months, and says that the Taliban must cease violence“ to show their sincerity” for negotiations.
“The release of more than 4,000 Taliban prisoners … has created this opportunity and should be considered a big step and needs to be mutual the Taliban to stop the violence. The world and the Afghan people want peace and are tired of war,” said Seddiqi.
The Taliban, for its part, freed about 1,000 inmates by the government as part of a prisoner exchange program outlined in the Qatar agreement, which, according to the agreement, was to be completed by the end of March to pave the way for the withdrawal of all foreign troops from Afghanistan by next spring.
However, despite the optimism of Mr. Khalilzad, that the negotiations can become a reality in the near future, some Afghan analysts believe the persistence of the Taliban in the future releases, and the government’s efforts to end the insurgent activity, can block the dialogue.
“Both sides reiterated their recent background. If there is leniency from them, it is hard to be optimistic, as Khalilzad was,” Taj Mohammad, a Kabul-based analyst and former journalist, told Arab news.
Nasratullah Haqpal, a political analyst at the Central and South Asia, agreed, adding that the delay in the inter-Afghan negotiations was to put pressure on both Khalilzad and U.S. Secretary of state Mike Pompeo, who appointed Khalilzad as two years ago.
The US President Donald trump, who is standing for re-election in November, seeks to withdraw all American troops from Afghanistan after 19 years of war, despite the opposition from some current and former American generals during, and Ghani, who is in his second term after last year’s controversial elections.
Said Haqpal Khalilzad and some other American diplomats, was “exerting pressure on Ghani” to release the remaining Taliban prisoners and engage in talks with the Taliban, while “Gani was against the peace process … because it threatens its power and the presidency.”
Mistrust on all sides and each of which uses the peace process in their favor, Haqpal said that there will be no clarity about the initiation of peace talks before the presidential elections in the United States.
“While we will not have any tangible changes,” he told Arab news.
Mohammad said that instead, there may be more violence in the coming months both parties “tend to use domination on the field of battle for advantage at the negotiating table” when and if the negotiations start.
There has been a surge of attacks and counter-attacks by the Taliban and the Afghan government in recent months, resulting in hundreds of casualties on both sides Sediqqi said earlier this month that “the increased violence by the Taliban in recent times”, which also led to the death of civilians, “damage hopes for the start of negotiations and lasting peace in the country.”
He gave no estimate of losses by government forces. However, official data published last month showed that hundreds of soldiers and police officers were killed during a Taliban attack in June.
The Taliban have rejected these claims, a spokesman zabihullah Mujahid, accusing Kabul for a few strokes, which “has led to casualties among non-combatants.”
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