CEO speaks at Davos, criticizes Taliban

KABUL (TOLONews): Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Abdullah Abdullah on Tuesday addressed leaders at the World Economic Forum in Davos where he outlined the Afghan government’s vision for peace and reconciliation with the Taliban .

The CEO however clarified that a wider segment of society – the Afghan people in general – were not in support of the Taliban’s perception of governance or to see them back in power.

“Taliban are asking for Islamic Emirate which is a different type of ruling, like the religious scholars are getting together and appointing an Amir (Emire) so everybody could be obedient to that type of system while we embarked upon a different system,” Abdullah told a panel of world leaders at Davos.

The CEO said that the Taliban’s hardline approach towards the Afghan government has been one of the key obstacles undermining intra-Afghan dialogue with government in its bid to find a negotiated settlement to the conflict in the country.

“The fundamental obstacle has been the Taliban have refused at times, in most recently as well to sit together directly with the Afghan government to talk and discuss the issues including the concept of governance, including the issue of withdrawal of American troops or NATO, what they say is that we talk to the Americans about the troops withdrawal and we will try to be more inclusive when we rule again, I think that is the main obstacle. But by sitting around the table, one can find ways because they also have a stake in peace,” said Abdullah.

He said that the Afghan government does not have any preconditions for talks.

“Taliban have certain ideas, a lot has changed in Afghanistan in the past 18 years. This is a misconception that these changes were imposed upon the people of Afghanistan; yes, the support from international community and the space it created, it helped these changes, but people will not go back on their rights,” he said after being asked about government’s redlines on education and women rights in the country.

He warned certain countries in the region against supporting terrorism and extremism and said that such an approach will harm those who provide sanctuaries to them.

This comes a day after the Taliban confirmed that its delegation had held talks with US representatives in Doha, Qatar after the US side accepted the agenda tabled by the group for discussion.

“Following American acceptance of the agenda of ending invasion of Afghanistan and preventing Afghanistan from being used against other countries in the future, talks with American representatives took place today in Doha, the capital of Qatar. The session will also continue tomorrow,” said Zabiullah Mujahid, a spokesman for the Taliban.

This comes shortly after US Special Envoy for Afghanistan Reconciliation Zalmay Khalilzad’s visit to Islamabad where he met senior Pakistani civilian and military officials including Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan, Foreign Minister Shah Mahmoud Qureshi Qureshi, as well as Foreign Secretary Tehmina Janjua and Chief of Army Staff Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa.

His aim was to help cement concrete steps for the peace process in Afghanistan.

“We’re heading in the right direction with more steps by Pakistan coming that will lead to concrete results,” Khalilzad tweeted after meeting top Pakistani officials in Islamabad on Sunday.

Nevertheless, officials from the High Peace Council (HPC) have expressed hope that the current diplomatic efforts between the countries involved on the situation in Afghanistan will lead to direct peace negotiations between the Afghan government and the Taliban.

However, the Taliban, who claim to have control over large swathes of land in Afghanistan, have ignored calls by the international community to engage in intra-Afghan dialogue.

“We are paving the way for a swift start of talks between the Taliban and the Afghan government delegation so that the year of 2019 marks the year of the beginning of talks,” said HPC spokesman, Sayed Ehsan Tahiri.

In February last year, President Ashraf Ghani addressed the second Kabul Process meeting and proposed unconditional peace talks with the Taliban as part of his efforts to bring the group to the peace table.

However, he clarified later that an unconditional peace offer to the Taliban does not mean the end of the war in the country.

Later, the Taliban rejected the Afghan government’s offer of peace talks and the response was another blow to hopes that an unprecedented Eid ceasefire, announced by the Afghan government and the Taliban, could be a step towards more lasting peace.

This new development takes place amid a deteriorating security situation which has gripped the country since the collapse of the Taliban regime in 2001.

Afghan civilians and members of security forces have been dying in record numbers in the face of a resurgent Taliban in the country in the past few years.

The most recent of a string of deadly attacks saw a Taliban suicide bomber detonating a car loaded with explosives close to an NDS training base in Maidan Shahr, the capital of Maidan Wardak province, on Monday.

This camp was only a few kilometers east of Kabul. Dozens of Afghan security personnel were killed and wounded in the explosion.

The Trump administration meanwhile initiated direct contact with the Taliban in July last year, but a meeting last month in the United Arab Emirates was facilitated by the Pakistani government, after Trump requested Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan help with the reconciliation process.

Washington has in recent months ramped up pressure on Islamabad to play its role in overcoming the deadlock and moving towards intra-Afghan dialogue.