Despite Progress In Peace Talks Surging Violence In Afghanistan Raises Concerns

Kabul: European Union’s Special Envoy for Afghanistan Tomas Niklasson on Wednesday warned of surge of violence in Afghanistan and emphasised on the urgent need for the warring sides to make progress in their talks at Doha. “We could, unfortunately, see an increased level of violence over the next few weeks and months,” Niklasson said.

The special envoy pointed out that the Taliban have in Doha talks not presented any proposal on “how they would like to see future governance or a roadmap or list of subjects they would like to discuss”. The two sides were discussing “recalibration of order and sequence of talks’ sessions” in their meeting held on Tuesday, according to a Taliban spokesman.

Niklasson expressed fears that not only violence would grow after the departure of foreign troops from Afghanistan as the two sides test their military muscles on the battleground, but the conflict could also become more “violent and complicated” because of the involvement of other “actors”. “This could lead to complications both on the ground and if and when the negotiations start,” he said. The European Union’s envoy for Afghanistan said on Wednesday time was running out for Afghan peace negotiations. “There has been no or very little progress on substance, so from that perspective more has to be done,” he said. The envoy held meetings with officials in Islamabad this week and said he was confident that Pakistan saw it in its interests to encourage a negotiated peace settlement in neighbouring Afghanistan, but reiterated Pakistan should use all leverage to had to encourage the Taliban to deliver a written peace proposal. Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said the group did have a written plan but would not share it publicly or with foreigners and would save it for substantive negotiations.

Pakistan’s ties to the Taliban have been criticised in the past by the West but foreign capitals including Washington have in recent years acknowledged Pakistan for working to bring the insurgents to the negotiating table.

In fact, a two-day Afghanistan-Pakistan Track-II Dialogue held in Islamabad has also issued a joint statement, showing serious concern at a possible spike in violence in Afghanistan. “The South-Asian region is transiting through critical times laced with ardent hope for peace to return to Afghanistan. Simultaneously, there is lurking fear for more violence in the aftermath of the withdrawal of the US and NATO forces from the country,” said the statement issued on Wednesday. Against this backdrop, a Track-II platform was provided for these voices to speak regarding a number of issues which are integral to the cause of bringing peace and development in Afghanistan and throughout the region. The first round of the Afghanistan-Pakistan Track-II Dialogue was held in Islamabad on June 14-15. The dialogue was organised by the Regional Peace Institute (RPI). The dialogue was formally inaugurated by the Foreign Minister of Pakistan Shah Mohammad Qureshi on June 14 who spoke candidly regarding the dire need for peace by forging consensus among all stakeholders in Afghanistan so that peace could return to the war-ravaged country. Delegates from Afghanistan, Doha and Pakistan comprising representation from a variety of backgrounds participated in the dialogue.

On the other hand, Crown Prince of the Emirate of Abu Dhabi, Deputy Supreme Commander of the United Arab Emirates Armed Forces and the de facto ruler of Abu Dhabi, Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed met US Commander of NATO’s Resolute Support Mission in Afghanistan. They discussed UAE-US cooperation and the withdrawal of US troops and its NATO allies from Afghanistan.

In fact, US Ambassador to Azerbaijan Lee Litzenberger also said that Azerbaijan played an important role in ensuring peace and security in Afghanistan. Litzenberger made the remark at the “Azerbaijan’s Contribution to the Euro-Atlantic Peace and Security” international conference, on June 16. “Azerbaijan has demonstrated great commitment to its peacekeeping activity in Afghanistan and has also become an important transport hub for sending peacekeepers to Afghanistan,” Litzenberger said.

Despite all the progress in peace talks, violence in Afghanistan has been increasing since May 1, when the withdrawal of troops began. The situation looks particularly grim because of the stalemate in the talks between the Afghan government and the Taliban in Doha. The two sides have made little progress in their negotiations since their dialogue started last September. Even, Amnesty International in a statement on Wednesday called on the Afghan authorities to investigate and bring to justice the perpetrators of a “brutal” series of attacks amounting to war crimes that have killed at least 24 civilians in little over a week.

Samira Hamidi, Amnesty International’s South Asia Campaigner stated, “The targeting of civilians with near-total impunity continues unabated. While peace talks falter and preparations for the full withdrawal of international forces gather pace, it’s Afghanistan’s civilians who are paying the brutal price of this conflict.
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The statement comes a day after five health workers were killed and four others injured after gunmen opened fire at various polio vaccination centers across the city of Jalalabad in Nangarhar province. The incident comes shortly after two car bombs killed at least seven civilians and injured at least six others in a district of Western Kabul largely populated by members of the persecuted Hazara minority on June 12, Amnesty International said.

“The Afghan authorities must end this cycle of impunity by launching independent and effective investigations into these and other attacks on civilians and bring those responsible to justice,” Hamidi noted.

“We urge all parties to the conflict to take all measures necessary to protect civilians and respect international humanitarian law. And we call on the international community to make the protection of civilians and of minorities a central component of their ongoing support of the peace process.,” she stated.

“In recent months we have seen appalling attacks on schoolchildren, health workers, humanitarians, and other civilians in busy streets and markets. Deliberately attacking medical personnel, humanitarian workers, and other civilians are war crimes,” said Samira Hamidi.

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