The Kabul Times.
Politics

Trump, Taliban leader talk amid Afghans call for resumption of RiV

Trump

By: The Kabul Times

Fighting has resumed in Afghanistan after the Taliban ended a partial truce with Afghan National Defense and Security Forces (ANDSF), casting doubt on peace talks scheduled for next week. The Taliban said that Trump would ask his Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to talk with Afghan President Mohammad Ashraf Ghani in order to make sure negotiations between the Afghan government and the Taliban went ahead as planned as part of the peace deal.
U.S. President Donald Trump spoke by telephone with chief Taliban negotiator Mullah Baradar Akhund on Tuesday, the first known conversation between a U.S. leader and a top Taliban official, as a dispute over a prisoner release threatened a U.S.-led effort to bring peace to Afghanistan.
The call, announced on Twitter by a Taliban spokesman and then confirmed by Trump, came three days after Baradar and U.S. Special Envoy Zalmay Khalilzad signed an agreement in Qatar for a withdrawal of U.S. forces from Afghanistan.
That deal, a step toward ending America’s longest war, could boost Trump’s bid for a second term in the Nov. 3 U.S. election. Trump has made a troop withdrawal from Afghanistan a priority.
The pact calls for a phased withdrawal of U.S.-led foreign forces if the Taliban keeps its commitments and for the March 10 start of talks between the insurgents and an Afghan delegation on a political settlement to end decades of conflict.
In a statement on the 35-minute Trump-Baradar conversation, Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid suggested Baradar gave no ground on the issue.
“Baradar said to Trump,’ It is the inherent right of the Afghans that all the points of this agreement are implemented as soon as possible so that peace may come to Afghanistan,” Mujahid said. “Trump told Baradar he would soon have U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo speak to Mohammad Ashraf Ghani “so that the barriers against the inter-Afghan talks get removed,” Mujahid said.
Speaking with reporters, Trump gave few details of the discussion but said he had a good relationship with Baradar. “We had a very good conversation with the leader of the Taliban today. They’re looking to get this ended, and we’re looking to get it ended… the relationship is very good that I have with the Mullah. We had a good, long conversation today.”
Trump declined to say if the call was his first with Baradar, a co-founder of the Taliban and its political chief. Pakistan released Baradar from prison in October 2018 to lead the Taliban negotiating team.
The call was the first known conversation between a U.S. president and a leader of the insurgent group overthrown in the 2001 U.S.-led invasion for harboring al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden while he plotted the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks.
Under the US-Taliban accord, some 5000 Taliban prisoners and 1000 Afghan prisoners were to be exchanged by 10 March, when talks between the Taliban and the Afghan government are due to start.
But Afghanistan’s President Mohammad Ashraf Ghani said on Sunday that Afghan government had agreed to no such release. And on Monday the militants said talks would not take place if their prisoners were not released first.
The Afghan government said more than 20 people had died in the 24 hours since the Taliban resumed attacks on local targets. “As a result, six civilians were killed and 14 wounded. Eight enemy were also killed, 15 wounded,” interior ministry spokesman Nasrat Rahimi said the other day.
What have the Taliban said?
The Taliban say they will meet Afghan officials but only to discuss the prisoner release. “Now it is in the agreement and it is up to the US how it fulfils the commitments they made in the agreement,” the Taliban’s Doha office spokesman, Suhail Shaheen, tweeted.
Although the US-Taliban deal provides for the prisoner swap, a separate US-Afghan declaration commits the Afghan government only to participating in talks on the “feasibility” of such a release.
An estimated 10,000 captured Taliban are being held in Afghanistan. The hardline Islamist group had observed a “reduction in violence” in the week leading up to the agreement with the US being signed on Saturday in Qatar.
They have said they will resume fighting Afghan forces but would not target international troops. The Taliban have previously refused to negotiate with the Afghan government, so Saturday’s deal was just with the US, which invaded Afghanistan weeks after the September 2001 attacks in New York by al-Qaeda, then based in Afghanistan.
How has the US reacted?
General Scott Miller, the US forces commander in Afghanistan, said the reduction in violence “was a confidence builder”, adding: “We’re very serious about our obligations and we expect the Taliban will be serious about their obligations. “The United States has been very clear about our expectations – the violence must remain low.”
Saturday’s agreement included the withdrawal of US troops and its Nato allies from Afghanistan within 14 months – if the militants stick to the deal. About 12,000 US troops are still stationed in the country.
Meanwhile a number of Afghans took into social media after the group’s announcement of resumption of war against Afghan forces, calling for continuation of Reduction in Violence (RiV) period, asking Taliban to show their will for peace in the country and stop killing of the innocent masses.

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The Kabul Times.