July 27, 2019
US special envoy to “peace talks” with Afghan Taliban militants says they have vowed not to let future Afghanistan be turned into terrorists’ hotbed, an ostensibly awkward pledge from a group whose terror attacks ceaselessly kill both civilians and government troops across the militant-infested country.
“The world needs to be sure that Afghanistan will not be a threat to the international community,” Zalmay Khalilzad, an afghan-born former US ambassador to the country, said on Saturday.
“We are satisfied with the commitment that we have received (from the Taliban) on counterterrorism,” he added.
His comments came just two days after a number of Taliban-claimed bomb attacks killed more than 50 people in the capital Kabul, the eastern province of Nangarhar and the northern province of Takhar. Dozens of others also sustained wounds in the terror attacks.
The militants and the US officials are trying to strike a deal on a Taliban demand for the withdrawal of US and other foreign forces, and a US demand that the Taliban not let Afghanistan be used as a base for terrorism.
Several rounds of talks held in the Qatari capital of Doha have so far failed to produce significant results in restoring peace in the war-torn country.
Kabul, however, is suspicious about Taliban’s sincerity in their pledge in halting terror acts across the country. Back in March and early in the US-Taliban talks, Hamdullah Mohib, the national security adviser to the Afghan president, said counting on the Taliban to control other militants could be like “having cats guard the milk.”
The US and its allies invaded Afghanistan under the guise of the war on terror. The military invasion ousted Taliban from power but some 18 years on, Washington is seeking truce with the militants as the Taliban has only boosted its campaign of violence across the country.
Separately on Saturday, President Ghani in a decree dissolved the secretariat of the High Peace Council, an organization founded by former president Hamid Karzai some nine years ago to negotiate with the Taliban.
Elaborating on the issue, presidential spokesman Sediq Sediqqi said the authorities of the secretariat were handed over to the newly-established State Ministry of Peace Affairs.
The Taliban have refused to negotiate with the US-backed Afghan government, led by President Ashraf Ghani, denouncing it as a US puppet.
UN concerns about rising civilian deaths
On Friday, Amina Mohammed, the deputy secretary general of the United Nations, expressed the world body’s concerns regarding the rising rate of civilian deaths in terror attacks in Afghanistan.
She made the remarks upon her return from an official visit to Afghanistan and following a bomb attack in Kabul that left 11 civilians dead.
“As we witnessed again yesterday, conflict continues in Afghanistan,” she said, noting that “in 2018, the country suffered the highest number of civilian casualties since UNAMA [the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan] began recording figures in 2009.”
“In the first five months of this year, more than 100,000 people were displaced by conflict, and we know displacement increases the risk of gender-based violence in all areas,” Mohammed further said, addressing a Security Council meeting on Afghanistan.
She added that a political solution to the conflict in the Asian country remained more relevant than ever “as civilians continue to bear the brunt of the conflict.”
Police personnel killed in Taliban attack
Additionally on Saturday, at least three police officers lost their lives after a Taliban militant drove an explosive-ridden US-made armored vehicle into the police headquarters compound and blew it up in Ab Band district of the eastern province of Ghazni.
According to Aref Noori, the provincial spokesman, at least 12 others wounded in the explosion.
Late on Friday, another Taliban-claimed bomb attack killed at least three security forces in the Khogyani district of the province.
Noori added that the district police chief was also among the dead.