Global call for ‘end’ to Taliban offensive

(Left to Right front) The head of Afghanistan's High Council for National Reconciliation Abdullah Abdullah, Qatar's envoy on counter-terrorism Mutlaq al-Qahtani, and the leader of the Taliban negotiating team Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar arrive to present the declaration of the peace talks between the Afghan government and the Taliban in Qatar's capital Doha on July 18, 2021.   | Photo Credit: AFP

More than a dozen diplomatic missions in Afghanistan on Monday called for “an urgent end” to the Taliban’s ruthless military offensive, saying it was at odds with claims they want to secure a political deal to end the conflict.

The statement — signed by the U.S., EU, and more than a dozen other missions in Kabul — follows another round of inconclusive talks in Doha over the weekend between the Afghan government and the Taliban that many hoped would kickstart the ailing peace process.

“The Taliban’s offensive is in direct contradiction to their claim to support a negotiated settlement,” it read.

“It has resulted in loss of innocent Afghan lives, including through continued targeted killings, displacement of the civilian population, looting and burning of buildings, destruction of vital infrastructure, and damage to communication networks.”

For months, the two sides have been meeting on and off in the Qatari capital, but have achieved little, if any, notable success — with the discussions appearing to have lost momentum as the militants made enormous battlefield gains.

A joint statement released late on Sunday said little more than they had agreed on the need to reach a “just solution”, and to meet again next week.

“We also agreed that there should be no pause in the negotiations,” Abdullah Abdullah, who oversees the Afghan government’s delegation, said on Monday.

No talks on truce

He noted, however, that neither side was currently pursuing a joint ceasefire during the talks, despite urgent calls from Afghan civil society and the international community to end the surge in fighting.

Ahead of the second day of talks, Taliban supreme leader Hibatullah Akhundzada had said “the Islamic Emirate strenuously favours a political settlement” despite the groups lightning victories on the ground.

Akhundzada has said his group remained committed to forging a solution to end the war, but slammed the group's opponents for "wasting time".

But the Qatari facilitator of the talks said at the end of the two days that the sides had merely agreed to “work to prevent civilian casualties”, far short of previously agreed ceasefires.

“The two sides agreed to continue negotiations at a high level until a settlement is reached. For this purpose, they will meet again next week,” said Qatar’s counter-terrorism envoy Mutlaq al-Qahtani who oversees the talks for Doha.

Fighting continues

Despite the latest round of shuttle diplomacy, fighting continued to flare in Afghanistan with both the Taliban and government making claims of taking and re-taking territory in various areas across the country.

Despite coming days ahead of the Id-al-Adha holiday, the statement notably made no mention of a formal call for a ceasefire.

Over the years, the Taliban have announced a series of short truces during Islamic holidays.

However, the group has been criticised for using them to resupply and reinforce their fighters, allowing them to launch devastating onslaughts on Afghanistan’s security forces once the truces expire.

With foreign forces in the last stages of a withdrawal due to be complete by the end of August, the Taliban have cut a huge swath across Afghanistan, capturing hundreds of districts, seizing key border crossings and encircling provincial capitals.

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Printable version | Sep 26, 2021 1:01:19 AM |

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