Monday, April 19, 2021

Force Taliban to reduce violence and agree to truce, Afghanistan tells Pakistan

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Afghanistan on Sunday called on Pakistan to compel the Taliban to fulfil their commitments to reduce violence and to agree to a ceasefire, a day after the US said it would review its agreement with the militant group in the wake of a spike in violence.

The Afghan foreign ministry called on Pakistan and other international partners to press the Taliban to end violence in response to comments by Pakistan’s foreign minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi that the US should “not reverse things” in Afghanistan.

“The Taliban have not only failed to live up to their commitments to reduce violence and move toward a comprehensive ceasefire, but have escalated the violence to an unprecedented level, carrying out targeted killings and creating new challenges to meaningful negotiations and lasting peace,” the Afghan foreign ministry said in a statement.

“We expect the government of Pakistan and all our international partners to compel the Taliban to fulfil their commitments to reduce violence, to secure a nationwide ceasefire and to sever ties with terrorist groups so that the way for meaningful peace talks and political agreement is paved,” it said.

Most of the Taliban’s top commanders and its leadership council and clerics are based in Pakistan, especially in Quetta and the country’s northwest. During a recent visit to Pakistan, top Taliban negotiator Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar said all decisions regarding the peace process are made after consulting the leadership based in Pakistan.

Qureshi, in an interview with Al Jazeera last week, had called on new US President Joe Biden to follow up on the Afghan peace process and US troop withdrawal. “I think they should realise there is an opportunity in Afghanistan and they should persevere with what was initiated and not reverse things,” he said.

He contended Pakistan had “done a lot” to create an environment to facilitate the peace process, and blamed “spoilers” – internal Afghan players and “elements from outside” – for the violence.

The new US National Security Advisor, Jake Sullivan, told his Afghan counterpart Hamdullah Mohib during a phone call on Saturday that the Biden administration intends to review the US-Taliban agreement that was finalised in February 2020. The aim of the review is to assess whether the Taliban is living up to its “commitments to cut ties with terrorist groups, to reduce violence in Afghanistan, and to engage in meaningful negotiations with the Afghan government and other stakeholders”.

Over the past few weeks, Afghan government officials, civil society activists and journalists have been targeted in bombings and attacks in Kabul and other cities across Afghanistan. On January 14, India had called for an immediate stop to the targeted attacks and sought a comprehensive ceasefire to take forward efforts to usher in peace.

Among the terror groups active in Afghanistan and having links with the Taliban are al-Qaeda and the Pakistan-based Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) and Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM). According to a UN report, there are some 6,500 Pakistani fighters active in Afghanistan.

The Afghan foreign ministry said regional and international consensus is needed to achieve lasting peace in Afghanistan. “We appreciate the efforts of all parties who sincerely support the Afghan peace process. We expect the parties involved in the peace process to fulfil their commitments towards achieving peace,” it said.

The Afghan government has taken the “most important steps” to build trust and pave the way for a comprehensive political agreement by releasing more than 6,000 Taliban prisoners, declaring its readiness for an immediate and nationwide ceasefire, and participating in peace talks, the ministry added.

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