Afghan President Ashraf Ghani has warned that violence by the Taliban is threatening the country’s peace process, as he briefed the international community on Kabul’s preparations for peace talks with the armed group.
Afghan authorities and the Taliban are preparing to engage in negotiations aimed at ending the nearly two-decade-old war in the impoverished country.
Ghani on Taliban violence
Speaking on July 6 during an online conference aimed at briefing the international community on the expected talks with the militant group, Ghani said the current level of violence was higher compared with last year even though preparations are being made for peace talks.
Read more: The rocky road of US-Taliban peace agreement
Afghan authorities and the Taliban are preparing to engage in the so-called intra-Afghan talks aimed at bringing lasting peace to the war-torn country. The negotiations, slated to be held in the Qatari capital Doha, are part of a February deal between the US and the Taliban to end the nearly two-decades-old war.
— Arab News Pakistan (@arabnewspk) July 6, 2020
But violence, which had briefly reduced after a surprise ceasefire offer by the Taliban in May, has again spiked with officials blaming the insurgents for killing hundreds of security personnel and civilians in recent weeks.
Increased Taliban violence: threats to Afghan peace process
The Taliban has been running a bloody armed rebellion since it was toppled from power in a US-led invasion in 2001.
Ghani on Monday hosted the first of three online conferences aimed at briefing the global community on the expected peace talks.
“If the Taliban continue fighting, the Afghan peace process will face serious challenges,” he told online attendees from several nations.
“Unfortunately, the current level of violence is higher compared to last year,” Ghani said, according to a statement issued by his office.
Ghani is hosting two other video conferences later this week.
The United States and Russia along with some international organisations such as the United Nations are joining the video conferences, officials said.
Other countries participating include Pakistan, India, Iran, China, Egypt and Qatar.
Earlier Monday, just hours ahead of the first online meeting, Ghani’s spokesman also slammed the Taliban for an uptick in violence.
The govt of #Afghanistan released a large number of Taliban in order to reduce violence in the country, said Sediqqi, but "the violence has not decreased and it seems that we have not reached our goal."
— TOLOnews (@TOLOnews) July 6, 2020
“There is no obstacle on our side for the peace process, but we see that the Taliban are not serious,” Sediq Sediqqi told reporters.
Release of prisoners for timely withdrawal of US troops
“The government of Afghanistan released a large number of Taliban in order to reduce violence in the country, but the violence has not decreased.”
Afghan authorities have released more than 4,000 Taliban prisoners out of 5,000 demanded by the insurgents in a deal with Washington signed in February.
That deal paves the way for withdrawing of all foreign forces from Afghanistan by the middle of next year.
The US has reduced its troop presence to 8,600, fulfilling its obligation as part of the February deal. It represents a reduction from about 12,000 troops at the time of the agreement.
The Taliban have denied responsibility for many attacks, but acknowledge their fighters were targeting Afghan security forces in rural areas.
The date for direct peace talks between the Taliban and government is still not fixed.
The Western-backed government in Kabul has released more than 4,000 Taliban prisoners as part of a deal between the militants and Washington that was signed in February. The Taliban has so far released about 750 government prisoners.
Under the U.S.-Taliban accord, the United States agreed to reduce its forces in Afghanistan from 12,000 troops to 8,600 by mid-July. If the rest of the deal goes through, all U.S. and other foreign troops will exit Afghanistan by mid-2021.
AFP with additional input by GVS News Desk