US – Taliban Talks in Doha
The sixth round of talks between the Taliban and the US representatives resumed in Doha after a one-day break. Progress in the talks seems to have stalled due to differences on the agenda of negotiations. US envoy for Afghan peace Zalmai Khalilzad is pushing for four issues including troops’ withdrawal, anti-terrorism, intra-Afghan talks and reduction of violence, but the Taliban are stressing on agreement on the timetable of troops withdrawal first and before discussing any other issue.
Mr. Khalilzad said Saturday that America stands ready for “all sides” to lay down arms in the 17-year conflict.
“All sides laying down arms is the outcome of any peace process,” Khalilzad tweeted. “All sides agreeing to reduce violence is a necessary step toward achieving that outcome and the morally responsible choice to make. We stand ready.”
His comments came a day after the Afghan President Ashraf Ghani said he was prepared to call an “immediate” and “permanent” ceasefire — but the Taliban appeared to rebuff the offer. The president was addressing the massive grand council “Loya Jirga” of thousands of tribal elders, women, and representatives, which ended with a demand for a ceasefire between the government and Taliban forces.
Neither Khalilzad or the Taliban have said much about progress in their latest talks, but Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid on Friday tweeted that America should “forget about the idea of us putting down our arms” and “stop repeating failed strategies & expecting different outcomes.” However, in a voice message sent Saturday to the Associated Press news agency, the Taliban spokesman in Doha said both sides have offered new proposals for drawing down US and NATO forces. The Taliban have rejected any cease-fire until US and NATO troops withdraw.
In a separate statement yesterday he also rejected the jirga’s call for declaring a ceasefire in Afghanistan during the holy month of Ramadan.
Meanwhile, more than 1,000 Kabul residents have participated in a running tournament for peace. They have called on the Taliban to renounce violence and enter into peace negotiations with the government.
Airstrike Targeted ISIS Training Centres in Kunar, Dozens Killed
Officials in the defense ministry of Afghanistan said 43 suspected militants, fighting with the Islamic State group, have been killed in two separate airstrikes conducted Friday night by coalition forces in the eastern province of Kunar. They said the dead included fighters from Pakistan, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan. One is described as a prominent Uzbek commander who was previously with Al Qaeda. A provincial official told the media that almost all the local people had fled the area because it was controlled by the Islamic State group.
“Coalition forces in coordination with the Afghan ground forces carried out two airstrikes on ISIS training centers in Degal Sar area of Chapa Darah district in the eastern Kunar province.” the statement of Afghanistan’s defense ministry claimed. The defense ministry has also published aerial footage of the airstrike.
Both the Taliban and IS are active in eastern Afghanistan, especially in Kunar and neighboring Nangarhar provinces, which border Pakistan. After heavy fighting’s between Taliban and ISK militants in Chapa Darah district of the same province, hundreds of local residents displaced during the past months.
In a separate incident, an Afghan official confirmed to AP news agency that at least seven Afghan policemen were killed overnight when the Taliban stormed security checkpoints in western Badghis province. Mohammad Naser Nazari, a provincial councilman, said Saturday that three other security forces were wounded during the attack in Qadis district. The Taliban did not comment on the attack.
Conflicting Reports about Civilians Causality in Ghazni
Local residents in Dehyak district of Ghazni say that in the result of an operation by the pro-government forces, eight civilians, including women and children were killed and six others were wounded. Security officials in Ghazni confirmed that five civilians including women and children were killed when a mortar hit a residential house. Local residents transferred the coffins to the capital city. Civilian casualties, increased in recent months, have always been a controversial issue in Afghanistan.