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PEACE BRIEFS: Timeline of intra-Afghan negotiations

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(Last Updated On: September 21, 2020)

TODAY — Sunday, September 20, 2020 — 

23:00 – Nader Nadery, a member of the Afghan peace negotiating team said the contact groups from both sides met on Sunday for discussions and that progress was being made. 

11:00 – Former UNAMA chief Tadamichi Yamamoto said this week peace talks, underway in Qatar between Afghanistan and the Taliban, will not be easy especially as there is a wide gap between the two parties when it comes to some key fundamental issues. 

9:00 – Commenting on the UN Security Council’s statement on peace talks, US peace envoy Zalmay Khalilzad said it underscores international commitment to Afghanistan’s sovereignty, independence, territorial integrity and national unity.- 

 

Saturday, September 19, 2020 —

17:00 – US President Donald Trump said Friday night that the Taliban was tough and smart but also “tired of fighting.” Speaking to journalists at a press conference, Trump reiterated his decision on troop withdrawals and said “we’ll be down very shortly over the next couple of weeks to 4,000 — less than 4,000 in Afghanistan.

 

Friday, September 18, 2020 —

15:00 – UN Security Council (UNSC) has welcomed the start of peace talks between the Afghan government and the Taliban negotiators in Doha, aimed at finding a political settlement for ending the long-term conflict in the country. In a statement released on Friday, the UNSC reaffirmed its strong commitment to the sovereignty, independence, territorial integrity, and national unity of Afghanistan. 

 

Thursday, September 17, 2020 —

23:00 – Both sides need to come to a shared agreement on Afghanistan’s future – one where the will of the people can be exercised freely, said Abdullah Abdullah, the Chairman of the High Council for National Reconciliation.

22:00 – US Special Representative for Afghanistan Reconciliation said in order for the United States, the Afghan government and the Taliban to get to this point some very difficult, even heart-wrenching decisions had to be made. He said in an interview with Al-Jazeera that not only did the United States have to make difficult decisions but so did Afghanistan. This was in reference to concerns raised over whether the US government has given the Taliban “too much weight” in the intra-Afghan negotiation process – especially in light of the release of 5,000 prisoners. 

 

Wednesday, September 16, 2020 —

18:00 – Afghanistan has welcomed the UN Security Council’s decision to extend the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) for another year and thanked all member states that voted in favor of this. In a statement issued by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs on Wednesday night, government said UNAMA has played a vital role in garnering international support for peace talks and for the end state to safeguard and enhance the republic, the fundamental rights of all Afghans, especially women and minorities. 

 

Tuesday, September 15, 2020 —

22:00 – In their first formal session on Tuesday evening, the Afghan peace negotiating team leader, Masoom Stanekzai emphasized the importance of the current democratic system in the country, but still keeping it within the framework of an Islamic Republic. In his speech to all negotiating team members, from both the Afghan delegation and the Taliban team, he said the war in Afghanistan has been imposed on the people, who for decades have had to sacrifice their lives. 

 

Monday, September 14, 2020 —

23:00 – The Liaison Committees of the peace talks teams met this afternoon to discuss the modalities and schedule of future meetings. and agreed on the preparations for the general meeting to be held tomorrow, the
Taliban’s political office spokesman also confirmed. 

22:30 –  Peace team member Nader Nadery said Monday night the contact groups from both sides continued their discussions today on rules and procedures around talks. They are also prepared to present their ideas to the general negotiating meeting tomorrow, he said.

16:20 – US Special Representative for Afghanistan Reconciliation Zalmay Khalilzad arrived in Islamabad on Monday to discuss issues related to the Afghan peace talks with Pakistani officials. Khalilzad,  who is leading a three-member delegation of senior US officials, would meet high-ranking political and military officials to discuss the next phase of the Afghan peace process, Pakistani Geo News reported citing to some sources.

9:00 – US Special Envoy for Afghanistan Reconciliation Zalmay Khalilzad expected to leave Doha Monday for Pakistan where he will meet high-ranking political and military officials to discuss Afghan peace process. 

8:30 – Chairman of the High Council for National Reconciliation Abdullah Abdullah along with acting Foreign Minister Haneef Atmar and their delegation returned to Kabul on Sunday night after a 2-day trip to Doha for the opening of intra-Afghan negotiations. “I wish the negotiation teams all the best in their endeavor to achieve lasting peace in our country,” he said.

 

7:00 – Peace negotiating team member Nader Nadery said late last night “the first meeting between the contact groups of the two negotiation teams took place today. In this meeting code of conduct between two sides, schedules of upcoming meetings and relevant issues were discussed and progress was made.”

 

Sunday, September 13, 2020  

20:00 – US Special Representative for Afghanistan Reconciliation Zalmay Khalilzad said Sunday the  start of the intra-Afghan talks is a new beginning for the Afghan people and a way to “find a political formula for ending the war that could lead to a comprehensive and permanent ceasefire.” In an interview with Ariana News on the sidelines of the long-waited intra-Afghan talks in Doha, Khalilzad said the Afghan and Taliban delegations need to agree on a reduction in violence.

14:15 –  Taliban spokesman Mohammad Naeem Wardak says the contact teams have not yet met but when they do it will “pave the way for a meeting of the negotiating teams”.

13:40 – The eight-member negotiating team that will work directly with the Taliban team are Masoom Stanekzai, Ahmad Nader Naderi, Zarar Ahmad Moqbel, Fawzia Koofi, Maulvi Enayatullah Baligh, and Khalid Noor.

12:15 – Members of the Afghan negotiating team said Sunday that actual negotiations might only start on Tuesday. This comes after a member of the Taliban’s delegation in Qatar told Ariana News that an eight-member technical team from both sides was working on setting the agenda for talks, which they say could start Monday. 

9:30 – The head of Afghanistan’s High Council for National Reconciliation Abdullah Abdullah said negotiators would discuss a reduction in violence when they met with Taliban representatives on Sunday. In an interview with Reuters, Abdullah said: “One of the topmost issues on the minds of the people is reduction in violence in a significant way … and also getting to … hopefully a permanent ceasefire,” Abdullah said adding it would be one of the first issues discussed when negotiators met Sunday.

 

Saturday, September 12, 2020  

20:00 –  US Special Envoy for Afghanistan Reconciliation Zalmay Khalilzad said no foreigners will be in the conference room while negotiations between the Afghan delegation and the Taliban are underway. He said this is really an Afghan-led process and both sides “don’t want any foreigners in the negotiating room.”

19:10 – Afghan government and Taliban officials meeting in Doha for intra-Afghan negotiations should publicly commit to uphold international human rights, including women’s rights, Human Rights Watch said today. The United States, European Union, and other countries supporting the peace process should use their political and economic leverage to ensure explicit human rights commitments and enforcement mechanisms in any final agreement.

“Afghans who have endured decades of violence and abuses deserve more than vague promises to uphold human rights,” said Patricia Gossman, associate Asia director. “All participants in any future Afghan government should commit to institutions and processes to uphold women’s rights and a free press, end torture in custody, and ensure justice for abuses.”

18:28 – WATCH UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres’ speech at today’s ceremony to launch intra-Afghan talks.  He said: “The start of intra-Afghan peace negotiations is a major opportunity to achieve the long-held aspirations of the people of Afghanistan for peace. It is crucial that all Afghan leaders & members of the international community do everything possible to make peace a reality.”

 

18:20 – The Secretary-General of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, Dr. Yusuf bin Ahmed Al-Uthaimin, today “renewed his appeal to negotiators and all leaders and parties in Afghanistan to work together to seize this historic opportunity for an urgent and lasting cessation of fighting and violence and to adhere to constructive dialogue to reach comprehensive reconciliation and lasting peace within the framework of the peace process that Afghanistan has.” 

18:10 – US Secretary of Defense Mark Esper said in a statement issued Saturday afternoon that it is crucial for both sides to take advantage of this opportunity to make a truly Afghan-led and Afghan-owned peace process a success. “On this day, we remember the great sacrifices of the men and women of the United States Armed forces (military and civilian), who have sacrificed in some cases with their lives alongside our NATO and Afghan partners to make this day possible.”

17:40 – Reuters reports the first round of talks is expected to be largely administrative, leading to further rounds to broker a comprehensive peace deal to end the fighting. Negotiators will aim to set an agenda and may look for a ceasefire.

17:30 – US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo met with Taliban Political Deputy Mullah Baradar in Doha today. He said the “Taliban must seize this opportunity to forge a political settlement & reach a comprehensive & permanent ceasefire to end 40 years of war. This effort must be Afghan-led.”

16:30 – UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson said on Twitter this afternoon that the people of Afghanistan deserve to live in peace and security. “It is my fervent hope that today’s peace talks lead to a more stable and prosperous future and I urge the parties to negotiate in good faith.”

16:15 – The Taliban announced it has just released 22 Afghan soldiers in a gesture of goodwill on the first day of intra-Afghan negotiations.

16:05 – In a statement just issued by NATO, the organization has called on the Afghan government and the Taliban to fulfill their commitments to the peace process initiated by the US-Taliban agreement and the US-Afghanistan Joint Declaration. “Current violence levels – driven by Taliban attacks against Afghan National Defense and Security Forces – remain unacceptably high and undermine confidence in the peace process. We call on the Taliban to take decisive steps toward ending violence,” NATO stated. 

15:40 – Afghan and Taliban negotiating team members chat amicably on the sidelines of the intra-Afghan negotiations that got underway today. 

 

15:10High Council for National Reconciliation Chairman Abdullah Abdullah met with Sheikh Mohammed bin Jassim bin Mohammed Al Thani, Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister of Qatar. He than him and his country for organizing and hosting today’s historic event and for supporting peace efforts

15:00 – US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo met with Abdullah Abdullah, chairman of the High Council for National Reconciliation, and acting foreign minister Haneef Atmar, on the sidelines of the peace negotiations in Doha this afternoon. Pompeo assured them of the US’s continued support in efforts to achieve peace and bring an end to war and violence in Afghanistan.

14:50 – Abdullah Abdullah, chairman of the High Council for National Reconciliation for Afghanistan, said on Twitter he had attended the historic opening ceremony on intra-Afghan talks and is “looking forward to successful talks & a peaceful future.” 

14:00 – Over 100 formidable leaders from around the world have joined together as signatories to an open letter calling for meaningful participation by Afghan women in the peace process that started in Doha Saturday. They stated that substantive involvement of women in peace talks makes agreements more likely to be attained and upheld.

Among those who signed the letter, issued by Georgetown Institute for Women, Peace and Security, are Madeleine Albright, Former United States Secretary of State; Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation of the United Arab Emirates; Laura Bush, Former First Lady of the United States; Angelina Jolie, Special Envoy of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees; Hillary Rodham Clinton, Former United States Secretary of State; Ban Ki-moon, Former Secretary-General of the United Nations; and John Kerry, Former United States Secretary of State among others. 

13:15 – Speaking on the sidelines of the peace talks meeting in Doha, Taliban spokesman Mohammad Naeem Wardak said talks would focus on restoration of the Islamic system in the country and the release of the remaining 7,000 to 8,000 Taliban prisoners.

13:00 – The British Embassy in Kabul issues a statement saying the UK welcomes the start of historic Intra-Afghan negotiations. They say a political solution is the only way to achieve lasting peace and that talks between Afghans on how to end the conflict and build a better future, are the core element of this solution.

12:30 – Live broadcast of talks end. Meeting now behind closed doors. 

12:20 – Key global leaders continue to address the opening ceremony including NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg 

 

11:30 – Global leaders address delegates including representatives from Afghanistan’s neighboring countries. 

11:20 – US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo urged Afghans to strike a peace deal. “The choice of your future political system is, of course, yours to make,” he said, adding he hoped the solution would protect the rights of all Afghans.

WATCH LIVE as representatives from foreign countries, Afghanistan’s neighbors and other stakeholders address the opening ceremony of the historic peace talks. 

 

11:15 – Pompeo notes the importance of today – a day that Afghans have been able to enter into a dialogue together. “We will not allow al-Qaeda and other groups to use Afghan territory and Afghanistan to be a safe haven for them. You are all responsible for these conversations,” he said. 

11:10 – US Secretary of State Michael Pompeo also address the delegates. 

11:00 – Taliban’s head of their negotiating team Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar delivers his opening speech and says the Taliban assures Afghans that they will conduct the negotiations sincerely but notes that Afghanistan should have an Islamic system.

10:45 – Chairman of Afghanistan’s High Council for National Reconciliation Abdullah Abdullah gives his opening speech. He makes it clear that lasting peace will only come when it reflects the will of all Afghans. He emphasized that an end to the war is what all Afghans want.

10:30 – Opening ceremony gets underway. Qatar officials welcome all delegates.

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Millions in US dollars smuggled into Afghanistan from Pakistan daily

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(Last Updated On: February 7, 2023)

Millions of dollars are being smuggled into Afghanistan from Pakistan every day, providing some support for the fragile economy.

Muhammad Zafar Paracha, general secretary of the Exchange Companies Association of Pakistan, told Bloomberg that traders and smugglers bring as much as $5 million across the border daily, which more than covers the as much as $17 million that Afghanistan’s central bank injects into the market each week.

The illicit cash flows show how the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan (IEA) is evading sanctions after their 2021 takeover of the country, Bloomberg reported.

For Pakistan, however, it’s contributing to the depletion of foreign reserves and adding to the downward pressure on the rupee as the currency tumbles to record lows and the economy teeters on the edge of collapse.

“Currency is being smuggled without any doubt,” Paracha told Bloomberg. “This has become quite a lucrative business.”

“Afghanistan has about a $10 to $15 million requirement on a daily basis,” said Khurram Schehzad, chief executive officer at Alpha Beta Core Solutions Pvt Ltd., a financial consultancy in Karachi. Half of this is estimated to come from Pakistan, he said.

Da Afghanistan Bank, the country’s central bank, has enough dollars in reserve to support the economy, the bank’s spokesman Haseeb Noori told Bloomberg.

However, some of it comes from the UN, which has been providing about $40 million in humanitarian aid each week since late 2021.

This cash is transported by air to Kabul each week and much of it then needs to be converted into afghani after it arrives. So even though the aid doesn’t directly benefit the IEA, the dollars ultimately end up in the central bank’s coffers, Bloomberg reported, adding that the UN wasn’t immediately available to comment.

According to the report, the afghani has gained about 5.6% against the US dollar over the past year through Monday, one of the strongest performances of any currency in the world.

This while Pakistan’s rupee has lost about 37% against the US currency over the same period, one of the largest declines. It fell about 10% in one day in late January, the biggest drop in at least two decades, as the crisis-stricken government relaxed its grip over the exchange rate in a bid to win much-needed loans from the IMF, Bloomberg reported.

However, according to Bloomberg, the smuggling of US dollars into Afghanistan really took off in the middle of last year after Afghanistan increased coal exports to Pakistan.

In addition, it has been boosted by the IEA’s ban on the use of Pakistan’s rupee as legal tender in Afghanistan, which forces exporters to trade in dollars and bring the US currency back to the country, the officials told Bloomberg.

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Otunbayeva meets acting head of TVET in Kabul

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(Last Updated On: February 6, 2023)

The head of the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) emphasized the need for the inclusion of women and girls in vocational education on Monday in a meeting with Ghulam Haider Shahamat, acting head of Technical Vocational Education and Training (TVET).

In this meeting, Roza Otunbayeva said that vocational training is necessary for the economic development of Afghanistan and women and girls should be included.

Shahamat also expressed that technical and vocational education is effective for poverty alleviation and the growth of the country’s economy.

“The Technical Vocational Education and Training has 383 institutes and high schools all over Afghanistan, which operate in 250 districts and have 6850 staff,” said Shahamat.

Meanwhile, some experts say that Afghanistan needs to develop and create job opportunities for everyone, especially women and girls, and all international institutions play a constructive role for Afghanistan’s progress.

“All organizations which work under the framework of the United Nations can have positive roles in Afghanistan,” said Sarah Rahmani, women rights activist.

In this meeting, the head of the United Nations Cultural and Scientific Organization (UNESCO) was also present and emphasized on signing an agreement and creating a joint working group between both institutions.

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Afghanistan’s central bank to auction $17 million this week

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(Last Updated On: February 6, 2023)

Da Afghanistan Bank (DAB) has announced that it will auction $17 million on Wednesday as part of the efforts to stabilize the value of the Afghan currency against foreign currencies.

In a series of tweets on Monday, the Central Bank of Afghanistan asked qualified private banks and exchange companies to participate in the auction.

The winners of the auction are obliged to settle their accounts by the end of the day. As per the announcement, partial settlement of transactions is not allowed and the winners of the auction are obliged to transfer the payable amount to the central bank in cash within a certain time.

This is the second time in a week the central bank is auctioning US dollars to keep the value of Afghani stable.

The exchange rate was 90 AFN to the US dollar on Monday, February 6, 2023. The central bank sold $16 million on Sunday.

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