By: The Kabul Times
KABUL: NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg in a statement on Tuesday urged “all Afghans to demonstrate national unity in support of the peace process.”
“I commend the determination of the Afghan people, who exercised their democratic right to vote in the elections, and I pay tribute to the Afghan security forces, who served with professionalism and bravery to secure the vote,” said Stoltenberg, adding: “Any concerns about the electoral process should be addressed according to constitutional and legal procedures.”
He called on all Afghan political actors to refrain from taking steps that would escalate tensions and undermine political stability.
“I urge all Afghans to demonstrate national unity in support of the peace process. This is a time when all responsible political forces must engage in dialogue and unite behind the peace process, which is the priority for all Afghans,” he mentioned.
NATO remains firmly committed to Afghanistan’s long-term security and stability, said Stoltenberg.
“We continue to provide the Afghan security forces with training and financial support, so that they can fight terrorism and create the conditions for peace,” he added.
Meanwhile, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said on Tuesday that a possible U.S.-Taliban peace deal will include a timetable for conditions-based U.S. troop withdrawals and the start of the intra-Afghan negotiations.
Washington will sign a deal with Afghan Taliban “on or about February 29th” only after a successful implementation of a week-long violence reduction beginning Saturday in Afghanistan, Pompeo told reporters at a State Department press conference.
The agreement “includes a timeline for both a conditions-based and phased troop withdrawal, and for the commencement of intra-Afghan negotiations,” the top U.S. diplomat noted.
These negotiations, if taking place, will be “the first time that Afghans representing all sides of the conflict will sit down together and begin the hard work of reconciliation,” Pompeo added.
Under the plan, U.S. military presence in Afghanistan, which began in 2001 and has been called “ridiculous “ by President Donald Trump, will be reduced to 8,600 troops from the current 12,000 to 13,000 over the course of 135 days, reported the CNN news channel citing two sources familiar with the deal.
Washington announced last week that a deal with Taliban is expected to be signed on Feb. 29 without disclosing the location of the signing.
Peace talks between the two sides began in 2018 but were interrupted at least twice due to Taliban attacks on U.S. military personnel in September and December last year.
Zabiullah Mujahid, a purported Taliban spokesman, tweeted Friday that the finalized accord is expected to be signed in the presence of “senior representatives of numerous countries and organizations.”