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Wednesday, Oct 23, 2019

Violence, doubts tail Afghan peace talks in end stages

The Taliban have ramped up attacks in recent days as US special representative Zalmay Khalilzad has indicated that an agreement has been reached with them “in principle”.

world Updated: Sep 05, 2019 23:09 IST
Yashwant Raj
Yashwant Raj
Hindustan Times, Washington
Resolute Support (RS) forces arrive at the site of car bomb explosion in Kabul, Afghanistan. A car bomb rocked the Afghan capital on Thursday and smoke rose from a part of eastern Kabul near a neighborhood housing the US Embassy, the NATO Resolute Support mission and other diplomatic missions.
Resolute Support (RS) forces arrive at the site of car bomb explosion in Kabul, Afghanistan. A car bomb rocked the Afghan capital on Thursday and smoke rose from a part of eastern Kabul near a neighborhood housing the US Embassy, the NATO Resolute Support mission and other diplomatic missions. (Photo: AP)
         

Violence and uncertainties have continued to dog Afghanistan peace talks that are said to be in final stages. The Taliban claimed responsibility for a bombing Thursday that killed 10 people in Kabul including two American and Romanian service members and in a persisting sign of misgivings about the deal on the anvil, US secretary of state Mike Pompeo has reportedly declined to sign it.

The Taliban have ramped up attacks in recent days as US special representative Zalmay Khalilzad has indicated that an agreement has been reached with them “in principle”. More than 20 people have died in blasts in the last three days, including a Romanian diplomat, as the group has also pushed aggressively to establish control of additional areas in northern Afghanistan.

Under the deal, the US will withdraw 5,400 troops and shut down five bases in the next five months, subject to President Donald Trump’s approval, in return for the Taliban disavowing support and links with terrorists and giving a guarantee that they will not allow Afghanistan to turn into a haven for terrorists again. This agreement is expected to lead to intra-Afghan talks between the Taliban and the government in Oslo, Norway, with a rather unrealistic expectation of being wrapped up in time for elections scheduled for later this month.

Skeptics of the deal, and there are many including senior officials in the Trump administration, have scoffed at the Taliban guarantees as insufficient and have called for a larger US residual presence in Afghanistan. Trump’s hawkish National Security Advisor John Bolton has been a leading opponent of the talks and has thus been at odds with the president.

Lack of trust and doubts about the Taliban have persisted. And the TIME magazine reported Wednesday that the Taliban had wanted Secretary of State Pompeo to sign an agreement in which they want to be called the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan, which was the name of the country before the Taliban were overthrown by the US and Northern Alliance forces after the 9/11 attacks in 2001.

Pompeo declined to put his name to the deal in that form, the publication reported citing unidentified US and Afghan officials.

After the article’s publication, state department spokesperson Morgan Ortagus told the magazine, “There is no agreement to sign yet. If and when there is an agreement that is approved by all parties, including President Trump and if the Secretary is the appropriate signatory, he will sign it.”

First Published: Sep 05, 2019 23:09 IST

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