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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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UN’s special rapporteur in Afghanistan to assess human rights situation

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(Last Updated On: May 18, 2022)

Richard Bennett, the UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of Human Rights in Afghanistan is currently in the country and has already met with the IEA’s foreign minister, Amir Khan Muttaqi.

Bennett who is in Afghanistan on a 10-day visit, is expected to engage with Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan (IEA) officials, international and national representatives of NGOs and other organizations, members of civil society and other stakeholders to discuss the human rights situation in Afghanistan.

The IEA meanwhile said Bennett provided information on the purpose of his visit to Muttaqi at their meeting and outlined his mission.

Muttaqi briefed Bennett on the religious and cultural values and cultural characteristics of the Afghan people so that he could take this into consideration while assessing the situation.

In a recent statement, ahead of his arrival in Afghanistan, Bennett said he would engage with the authorities and a broad range of stakeholders to assess the situation of human rights, including with regard to the implementation of obligations under international human rights instruments ratified by Afghanistan, and to offer assistance to address and prevent violations and abuses.

The Special Rapporteur is an independent expert appointed by the Human Rights Council. Bennett, who was appointed on April 1, official resumed duties on May 1.

Bennett will also conduct field visits while in Afghanistan and will deliver his findings in a report to the Human Rights Council and the UN General Assembly later in the year.

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IEA approves working process to bring exiled Afghan politicians home

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(Last Updated On: May 17, 2022)

Organization procedures for the commission tasked with getting Afghan politicians and former government officials living abroad to return home have been approved by the leadership of the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan and the commission is expected to start work soon.

It was decided at a recent meeting that the commission’s operational procedures will be announced at a special ceremony in the near future.

“In this commission, all faces, whether women or men, will be contacted, and everyone’s return plan is ready for the patriotic figures to be returned,” said Hassan Haqyar, a close allie of the IEA.

But some political activists have raised questions about the future of any returning exiled Afghans.

The have asked if the politicians for instance will be allowed to carry on with work as previously or whether they will have to give up politics and find another occupation.

The same goes for former government employees.

“We call on the Emirate, in order to implement the plan of this commission, to facilitate the work and activity of these figures again, and there must be a guarantee for everyone who returns, because everyone must see themselves in the mirror of the government,” said Sayed Jawad Hussaine, political analyst.

However, Iran, which hosts a number of former politicians has once again called for the establishment of an inclusive government in Afghanistan.

Recently, Anas Haqqani, a member of the commission, said that about 50 former government officials have so far returned to Afghanistan and that efforts are underway to bring back other political figures.

The meeting of the Commission for the Return of Politicians and Former Government Officials was meanwhile convened shortly after former President Hamid Karzai was ordered to not leave the country.

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India mulls reopening embassy in Kabul

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(Last Updated On: May 17, 2022)

India is exploring the possibility of reopening its embassy in Afghanistan, but without high-level diplomatic representation, an Indian newspaper reported on Tuesday.

A team of Indian security officials visited Kabul in February to assess the situation, the Indian Express reported.

The paper said that the embassy will likely function only with personnel for liaison purposes that may extend to consular services.

India, like many other countries, closed its embassy in Kabul after the Islamic Emirate took over Afghanistan on August 15 last year.

Pakistan, China, Russia and Iran were the only countries that did not close their embassies in Kabul during the takeover.

Some 16 countries have now reopened their embassies in Kabul.

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