Zalmay Khalilzad, the United States’ special envoy for Afghanistan reconciliation, stepped in this week to end the deadlock in Doha and said the US “will not walk away” from the war-torn country should the intra-Afghan negotiations fail.
Speaking to NPR, Khalilzad stated Washington would not make the same mistake as the Soviet Union which withdrew abruptly from Afghanistan in 1989, resulting in a devastating civil war that eventually led to the Taliban rising to power.
“We will not make the mistake that was made after the Soviet withdrawal from Afghanistan, which was to abandon Afghanistan. And the consequences were grave for Afghanistan because of the mistakes the Afghan leaders made,” he said.
“Rather than coming together, forming a government, they fought each other while the rest of the world benefited from the Soviet defeat in Afghanistan and the Soviet disintegration, which was partially helped by their conquest or attempted conquest of Afghanistan.”
He said now was the time for Afghanistan to seize the opportunity to negotiate a roadmap “where groups of different ideas or ideologies, values, can coexist in the same country.
“And at the same time, there is a lesson for the United States that we cannot abandon Afghanistan. We cannot turn our back.”
He said this did not mean the US necessarily needed to maintain a military presence in Afghanistan nor continue a war just to have a military presence – “but that if the conditions are right, [if] we don’t feel threatened, that we can withdraw our military forces or adjust them accordingly, but maintain focus, relations, economic assistance, political relations, diplomatic relations, to encourage the consolidation of a peace agreement, should it be arrived at by the Afghans.”
He stated the current peace talks situation was a moment for the Afghan leaders not to repeat the mistakes of the past, but instead to build a consensus-based system where all key players can participate, “and perhaps peace in Afghanistan can change the dynamics even regionally.”
The negotiating teams in Doha, have hit a sticking point and are still to finalize the foundations in which to continue peace talks.
Two sticking points have emerged. Firstly the Taliban want Afghanistan to recognize the US-Taliban agreement as the foundation of the Afghan peace negotiations, and secondly that Hanafi Figh jurisprudence sets the religious legal guidelines for the talks.
However, reports indicate the Afghan team is not happy about recognizing the US-Taliban deal as the basis for talks as they were not party to the agreement.
The Afghan republic’s team also feels strongly that issues that arise can be solved based on Hanafi Figh but that Shia Personal Status Law must also be taken into account.
UN Security Council to meet over situation in Afghanistan
The United Nations Security Council (UNSC) is scheduled to hold a meeting on Tuesday that will focus on the current situation in Afghanistan.
UNSC members are expected to discuss economic, humanitarian and security concerns.
Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan (IEA) spokesman Bilal Karimi said the IEA welcomed meetings that are held with the aim of cooperating with the government and people of Afghanistan.
He also said that Afghans expect cooperation and that such meetings must be held in accordance with international laws and principles.
However, the IEA still does not have a designated UN representative – one year after taking control of the country.
Instead, Naseer Ahmad Faiq, who assumed leadership of the Afghan mission to the UN in December last year, will address the security council members.
The IEA does not however recognize him as the legitimate envoy to the UN.
In a series of tweets on Monday, Faiq said that he would address the security council meeting and speak on behalf of Afghans.
“On behalf of Afghans, in this important meeting, like always, I would like to raise the voice of my nation,” he said.
In September last year, the IEA asked the UN to accredit Suhail Shaheen, the head of the IEA’s political office in Qatar, as the new ambassador.
But in December, the UN General Assembly passed a resolution in which it indefinitely delayed a decision over the rival claims to the representative seat for Afghanistan.
At the time, the IEA criticized the UN’s failure to decide on this issue, saying it was ignoring the rights of the Afghan people.
Influential Muslim cleric al-Qaradawi dies at 96
Senior Muslim cleric Sheikh Youssef al-Qaradawi, who was based in Qatar, died on Monday, according to a post on his official Twitter account.
The cleric was an Egyptian Islamic scholar and was chairman of the International Union of Muslim Scholars.
He was best known for his programme al-Sharīʿa wa al-Ḥayāh (“Sharia and Life”), broadcast on Al Jazeera, which has an estimated audience of 40–60 million worldwide.
He is also known for IslamOnline, a website he helped to found in 1997 and for which he served as chief religious scholar.
Al-Qaradawi published more than 120 books, and received eight international prizes for his contributions to Islamic scholarship, and is considered one of the most influential Islamic scholars today.
Al-Qaradawi has long had a prominent role within the intellectual leadership of the Muslim Brotherhood, an Egyptian political organization, although he repeatedly stated that he was no longer a member. He has over the years been critical of Egypt’s President Abdel Fatah al-Sisi.
US spy satellite launched into orbit from California
A classified satellite for the U.S. National Reconnaissance Office launched into orbit aboard a United Launch Alliance Delta 4 Heavy rocket on Saturday.
The NROL-91 spy satellite lifted off at 3:25 p.m. from Vandenberg Space Force Base in California’s Santa Barbara County, AP reported.
It was the last launch of a Delta 4 from the West Coast. Additional launches are planned from Florida before the Deltas are replaced by ULA’s next-generation Vulcan Centaur rockets.
The Delta IV Heavy configuration first launched in December 2004. This was the 387th flight of a Delta rocket since 1960 and the 95th and final launch from Vandenberg.
The National Reconnaissance Office is the government agency in charge of developing, building, launching and maintaining U.S. spy satellites that provide intelligence data to policymakers, the intelligence community and Defense Department.
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