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Taliban seek ‘lion’s share of power’ in deadlocked peace talks: Khalilzad

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(Last Updated On: August 4, 2021)

The Taliban and the Kabul government are far apart in U.S.-backed talks on bringing peace to Afghanistan, with the insurgents demanding “the lion’s share of power” in any new government, the special U.S. envoy said on Tuesday.

Afghan-born veteran U.S. diplomat Zalmay Khalilzad’s bleak assessment of the peace process coincides with Taliban advances on provincial capitals that have uprooted tens of thousands of civilians as the U.S. troop pullout nears completion after 20 years of war.

“At this point, they (the Taliban) are demanding that they take the lion’s share of power in the next government given the military situation as they see it,” Khalilzad told the Aspen Security Forum in an online conference.

The deadlocked negotiations in Doha were the subject of a telephone call on Tuesday between U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, with them agreeing on the need accelerate talks, the U.S. State Department said.

Blinken and Ghani also “condemned the ongoing Taliban attacks and displacement of the civilian population,” State Department spokesman Ned Price said in a statement.

The Taliban’s rapid advances have fueled fears that the insurgents aim to re-establish by force their harsh brand of Islamist rule ended by the 2001 U.S.-led invasion, including the repression of women and the independent media.

The insurgents say they want a peace deal.

Price told reporters that the insurgents would become “international pariahs” if they renege on their commitment to the negotiations “and the concern on the part of all of us, one of the many concerns, is that the result will be civil war.”

A car bomb blast followed by sporadic gunfire hit Kabul on Tuesday near the heavily fortified “Green Zone,” leaving three civilians and three attackers dead.

Khalilzad was the architect of the U.S.-Taliban deal for a U.S. troop pullout reached in February 2020.

In his rare public assessment of the Doha talks started under that deal, Khalilzad said peace can only be reached through a ceasefire and negotiations that would establish a transitional government.

Ghani’s administration says the talks should focus on “bringing the Taliban into the current government,” he said.

The Taliban contend that Ghani’s government “is the result of military occupation” and they want an agreement on a transitional government and constitution, Khalilzad continued.

“They are far apart,” he said. “They are trying to affect each other’s calculus and the terms by what they are doing on the battlefield.”

Khalilzad said that 40 years of continuous conflict “has no legitimacy any more.”

“It’s a struggle for a balance of power, dispensation of power between various factions, and no Afghans, especially civilian Afghans, should die because of that,” he added in remarks that risked angering the U.S.-backed Ghani government.

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First cargo flight takes place from UAE to Balkh since IEA takeover

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(Last Updated On: February 23, 2024)

For the first time since the Islamic Emirate’s takeover, a flight from the United Arab Emirates to Maulana Jalaluddin Mohammad Balkhi Airport in Mazar-e-Sharif city was carried out through the air corridor, officials said.

The airport officials said that sixteen tons of commercial goods, including electronic devices related to Bayat Power company were transferred from Dubai to Mazar-e-Sharif city.

“This is the first time that a flight from Dubai to Mazar-e-Sharif has been made through the air corridor; discussions with traders are ongoing and we hope to keep this corridor active in the future,” said Abdullah Motmaen, director of customs of Maulana Jalaluddin Mohammad Balkhi Airport.

Meanwhile, Balkh Chamber of Commerce and Investment officials stress the beginning of the general process of transferring commercial commodities by air corridor.

“In the transfer of commercial goods, air corridor is so important,” said Asadullah Asadi, head of Balkh’s chamber of commerce and investment.

Earlier, through the air corridor of Maulana Jalaluddin Mohammad Balkhi Airport, Pine nuts and other commercial items were exported to the countries of the region.

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IEA will attend future UN meetings if demands accepted: deputy PM

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(Last Updated On: February 23, 2024)

Deputy Prime Minister for Political Affairs Mawlavi Abdul Kabir has called the recent decision of the United Nations for the participation of the Islamic Emirate at the second Doha meeting on Afghanistan “unfair” and said that if the demands of the IEA are accepted by the UN and countries in future meetings, the acting government will participate on behalf of Afghanistan, the deputy PM’s office said in a statement.

Abdul Kabir made these statements on Thursday at a graduation ceremony in Kabul.

Kabir added that “Afghanistan, as an independent country and Islamic Emirate as a legitimate Islamic system, assures all its neighbors and the international community that the acting government is striving for economic and development cooperation based on a balanced and moderate policy.”

He also stressed that there would be no threat to anyone from Afghanistan.

While fighting against drugs and corruption, sustainable stability can only be guaranteed under the rule of the Islamic Emirate, which Afghans and the international community have understood, according to the statement.

He stated that with the arrival of the Islamic Emirate, the national budget was prepared from internal revenues for the first time, and in addition to paying the expenses of civil administrations and development projects, the expenses of the Islamic Army and security departments are also paid from the national budget.

The second meeting of special representatives of countries regarding Afghanistan was held on Sunday and Monday of this week in Doha, in which the delegation of the Islamic Emirate did not participate.

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Strong consensus on collective interests in Afghanistan exist: Thomas West

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(Last Updated On: February 23, 2024)

Thomas West, the US special envoy for Afghanistan, described the recent UN meeting in Doha as productive, emphasizing a strong consensus on collective interests in Afghanistan, including the desire to see women and girls return to secondary school, university, and work.

“No country wants to see the emergence of a terrorism threat from Afghanistan. All want to see women and girls return to secondary school, university, work, and public life,” West stated in a post about the conference.

West also noted the international commitment to the Afghan people, highlighting the effort to provide humanitarian aid to over 26 million Afghans last year. However, he expressed concerns about sustainability and the need for an approach that empowers Afghans economically.

The envoy acknowledged the Islamic Emirate’s enforcement of a poppy ban, which the UNODC reported resulted in a 95% reduction in cultivation. He underscored the need for more coordination in supporting alternative crops for farmers and recovery for addicts.

West appreciated the participation of Afghan civil society members, both from within and outside Afghanistan, discussing economic needs, human rights, and the importance of continued engagement, including with the Taliban.

Regarding future steps, West welcomed the continuation of the current meeting format and calls for a UN-led process to develop a roadmap for Afghanistan’s full integration into the international community. “The Afghan people’s well-being, and the international community’s shared interests, must guide this work,” he concluded.

The second meeting of special representatives for Afghanistan was held on Sunday and Monday in Doha. The Islamic Emirate did not participate.

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