Taliban: Afghan govt impeding peace efforts

KABUL (TOLO News): Amid a prolonged delay in intra-Afghan negotiations, the Taliban on Sunday accused the Afghan government of creating “hurdles” in the way of the peace process, saying the US and NATO have also fallen short in implementing the peace agreement the group signed with the United States in late February.

The Taliban made the statement in response to international calls for a humanitarian ceasefire and a reduction in violence, which were echoed by a message from President Ashraf Ghani on Friday, the eve of the holy month of Ramadan, appealing to the Taliban to call a ceasefire, especially considering how the coronavirus was spreading throughout the country.

The Taliban said that the Afghan government’s calling for a ceasefire is “not rational and convincing” while the peace process is being impeded by the Afghan government and while it is not fully implemented.

“The interests of the (Afghan government) are in the continuation of the of war,” the Taliban claimed, adding “ (The Afghan government) started creating hurdles on the way of the implementation of the agreement from the beginning.”

The group clarified that, so far, the government has postponed the prisoner release, has not formed an inclusive negotiations team and has not been able to end the internal rift, referring to the dispute between President Ghani and Abdullah Abdullah.

The group also said the US, NATO and its allies have not played their role in the implementation of the agreement.

Responding to the Taliban statement, presidential spokesman Sediq Sediqqi in a series of tweets on Sunday afternoon that the Taliban is still insisting on fighting against the people of Afghanistan despite repeated calls by the Afghan government, the country’s religious scholars, international organizations, NATO and the European Union.

Sediqqi said that an increase in Taliban attacks “against the people and the security forces of the country” in recent days showed that the Taliban are not committed to reducing violence.

Sediqqi said the government of Afghanistan accepted the call for a reduction in violence to start the peace talks with the Taliban, as well as started the Taliban prisoner release and formed a negotiation team–all as steps to move the peace process forward.

Government information shows that 13 provinces out of a total of 34 are witnessing heavy clashes as a result of Taliban attacks.

Logar is one of these provinces, where, according to tribal elders, seven members of the Afghan forces were killed in a Taliban attack on Saturday evening. Four of the forces were taken by the Taliban, said the elders.

A spokesman for the Ministry of Interior, Tariq Arian, said the Taliban has intensified their attacks but “the Afghan security and defense forces have conducted their operations under the active defensive framework and have inflicted heavy losses on the Taliban.”

The US peace envoy Zalmay Khalilzad in a tweet on Sunday urged the Taliban to call a humanitarian ceasefire during Ramadan month.

“…Ramadan offers the Taliban an opportunity to embrace a humanitarian ceasefire to reduce violence and suspend offensive military operations until the health crisis is over,” Khalilzad tweeted.

“Both sides must also accelerate the release of prisoners. The war on COVID-19 makes it urgent and will also aid the peace process including getting intra-Afghan negotiations underway,” he said.

Last week, the Afghan President Ashraf Ghani –on the eve of Ramadan–appealed to the Taliban for a ceasefire, citing the special conditions of the countrywide spread of the coronavirus.