Latest news and happenings of Afghanistan and region…
Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, Taliban deputy and head of the Taliban’s political office in Qatar, gave a brief remark at the opening ceremony of the intra-Afghan peace talks in Qatar on Saturday.
He assured the Afghan people that the Taliban will take part in the talks with the spirit of honesty and “would strive during negotiations to create an enabling environment for its Mujahid and oppressed people for a life of peace, tranquility and stability.”
“We also assure the world that the Taliban will use all their ability so that the intra-Afghan talks get positive results,” Baradar said.
He also called on the U.S. to comply with its commitments under the peace agreement signed in February, and said there will be challenges ahead, but they will “show courage” and “move forward with patience.”
President Ashraf Ghani spokes about the Afghan peace negotiations during a meeting at the Presidential Palace on Saturday.
Chairing a meeting of the security forces, Ghani said the Afghan government’s position on the peace process has always been clear.
“We are moving forward with a strong position, strategy, program and determination to achieve lasting and dignified peace,” he said.
Ghani called the start of the in-person negotiations with the Taliban a result of the sacrifices made by the security and defence forces.
He assured the people that the government would continue the process to end the war with prudence and determination.
At the end of his speech, President Ghani said that the government’s position on peace is clear and the Afghan delegation represents a “united Afghanistan and the government of Afghanistan.”
National Security Adviser Hamdullah Mohib also said the country supported a “dignified and lasting peace that protects our gain, preserves the rights of all citizens and fosters pluralism.”
“The Islamic Republic of Afghanistan has always been and will be Islamic and people-centric. Our Islamic republic is an umbrella for the diversity of voices and opinions,” he said, adding, “As a group, the Taliban too can benefit from democracy, as others do, under this umbrella.”
He acknowledged that the system needed some reforms and they were looking forward to working with the Taliban to “further strengthen our republic, meet the expectation of the Afghan people and advance our national interests.”
Pakistani Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi said that they would support a democratic Afghanistan, as the intra-Afghan peace talks began in Qatar on Saturday.
“A long night ends and a new dawn begins,” Qureshi said, addressing the opening ceremony.
He noted that Pakistani citizens and law enforcement personals have rendered invaluable sacrifices in the war against terrorism.
“Pakistan has been by your side in every way,” he told the attendees.
The foreign minister paid tribute to Pakistan’s efforts for bringing about peace in Afghanistan and said that the talks were a pay-off for “everyone’s joint efforts.”
He said that durable peace in Afghanistan was in Pakistan’s interest.
He said that it was imperative that the mistakes of the past were not repeated, and the Afghan people were not abandoned.
“The progress achieved should not be wasted. A prosperous and peaceful Afghanistan will bring new opportunities for the people and would also open new vistas of cooperation and connectivity in the region and beyond,” he said.
He also called on the global community to ensure that Afghanistan neither sees a repeat of the violence nor becomes a harbour for elements that would harm other countries.
“At this moment of hope, I’ll reassure my Afghan brethren that Pakistan will always show full support and solidarity with them as they continue their momentous journey on the path of peace, security, and development,” the minister affirmed.
He reiterated the country’s support for a “peaceful, stable, united, democratic and sovereign” Afghanistan that was at peace with itself and with its neighbours.
India’s Foreign Minister S. Jaishankar on Saturday said the Afghan peace process must respect sovereignty and territorial integrity of Afghanistan.
In his virtual address during the opening ceremony in Qatar, Jaishankar said the peace process must promote human rights and democracy, ensure interest of minorities, women and the vulnerable.
He reiterated that the negotiations should the Afghan-led and Afghan-controlled and it must respect national sovereignty.
On the issue of terrorism, the minister said, “Soil of Afghanistan should not be used for anti-India activities”.
In his address, Jaishankar also highlighted that the millennia old relationship between India and Afghanistan had withstood the test of time.
“India has been an important partner in the development of Afghanistan,” he said, highlighting that over 400 projects have been completed in all the 34 provinces of Afghanistan.
Jaishankar concluded by wishing for the success of the negotiations and hope that the Afghan people would achieve what “they have longed for – a peaceful and prosperous future in an independent and sovereign nation.”
U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo addressed the opening ceremony of the historic peace talks between the Afghan government and the Taliban on Saturday, and urged the warring sides to seize the opportunity to strike a comprehensive peace deal.
“Look, the choice of your political system is, of course, yours to make,” Pompeo said, mentioning that democracy has worked well for the U.S.
“While it is indeed the case that no one size fits all solution, the United States doesn’t seek to impose its system on others,” he said, acknowledging the challenges that lay ahead.
“We believe firmly that protecting the rights of all Afghans is indeed the best way for you to break the cycle of violence.”
“You will write the next chapter in Afghan history. We hope this chapter is one of reconciliation and progress, not another chronicle of tears and bloodshed.”
He added that he hoped for decisions that would lead the country towards peace, development and prosperity.
However, he did warn that the “choices and conduct” during the negotiations will affect both the size and scope of U.S.’ future assistance.
Abdul Hafiz Mansour, a member of the Afghan government’s delegation said that while Pompeo did not want to “impose” anything on Afghans, his vouching for democracy was an indirect signal.
“The question was whether you [Afghan government] could rule without us [the U.S.]. He [Pompeo] said indirectly that if you are interested in American aid, you should consider democracy, human rights, and the achievements of 19 years in your decisions.”
Pompeo also noted the four women negotiators saying that they exemplified the gains made by the women in Afghanistan. He urged for the social advances to be protected.
Helmand officials confirmed that a child and two men were killed in a roadside mine blast on Saturday.
Omar Zwak, the spokesperson for Helmand governor’s office, said that around midnight, a civilian car went over a mine in the Babaji district.
A child and two men were killed in the explosion while two women were injured.
No group has claimed responsibility for the incident.
The Ministry of Public (MoPH) announced that 35 out of 208 samples tested positive for Coronavirus in the past 24 hours, bringing the Afghan tally to 38,641 confirmed cases so far.
New cases were reported in the provinces of Ghor (21), Balkh (8), Herat (3), Badghis (2) and Kabul (1).
The MoPH reported zero deaths and 80 recoveries in the past day.
There are currently 5,987 active cases in the country with the death toll at 1,420, and recoveries at 31,234.
Takhar officials confirmed that the Taliban had launched an attack at a highway checkpoint near the provincial capital, Taloqan city, on Friday night.
Javad Hijri, spokesperson for the Takhar governor’s office, told Reporterly on Saturday, that the Taliban attack started at around 9 p.m. and continued till 10:30 p.m.
Shah Wali Khan, the deputy head of the highway police, was on his way to provide reinforcement, when the vehicle struck a mine in the Chenzai area and he was killed along with another security personnel.
Hijri said the Taliban attack was countered but four security forces were also injured.
He added that 17 Taliban fighters were killed or wounded in the clash, but their exact number is unknown.
Herat officials said unidentified gunmen attacked a mosque in Jibreel township on Friday night, killing three people.
Jilani Farhad, spokesperson for Herat governor’s office, said armed men stormed a mosque near the shrine of Syed Murtaza in Jibreel, killing three people and wounding six more.
Residents of the area said three armed men on a motorcycle, shot at people who were leaving the mosque after the Friday prayers.
Two of the injured are said to be in critical condition.
No individual or group has claimed responsibility for the attack.
U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo will meet the delegations of the Afghan government and the Taliban on the side-lines of the intra-Afghan talks on Saturday, the U.S. Department of State said.
“At 11:00 am [local time], Secretary Pompeo meets with the Afghan government delegation…At 3:15 pm (local time), Secretary Pompeo meets with the Taliban delegation, in Doha, Qatar,” Pompeo’s schedule said.
According to the schedule, Pompeo will also meet Qatari Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani.
On arriving in Doha for the talks, Pompeo had tweeted: “The people of Afghanistan deserve a country that isn’t at war, and we are here to support them in building a roadmap to a peaceful future.”
U.S. Special Representative for Afghanistan Reconciliation Zalmay Khalilzad said in a press briefing that moving forward, U.S. policies and dealings with Afghanistan will be based on the direction of the peace talks.
“The future of Afghanistan is obviously after the Afghans to decide… the United States will decide its policies or its relations with Afghanistan, based on the decision and agreement that Afghanistan makes, and the implementation of those agreements,” Khalilzad said.
The peace talks between the Taliban and the Afghan government are expected to start today and pave the way for an end to the decades long war.