Ghani Urges Taliban to Join 'Inter-Afghan Dialogue'
Ayaz Gul / VOA News / October 31, 2014
ISLAMABAD - Afghanistan’s new President Ashraf Ghani used a regional conference in China Friday to reiterate his call for the Taliban to join a national peace dialogue and urged his country's international partners to support what he said is an Afghan-led and Afghan owned process. The insurgents have already rejected Ghani’s offer of peace talks and have instead intensified attacks across the country.
Beijing is hosting the annual conference of the so-called “Heart of Asia/Istanbul Process,” where foreign ministers and senior representatives of countries around Afghanistan gather to promote peace and reconstruction in the war-torn nation after NATO ends its combat mission in December. President Ashraf Ghani, who is in China for his first official visit, addressed the opening session of the regional meeting.
“Peace is our highest priority. We invite the political opposition, particularly the Taliban, to join an inter-Afghan dialogue and ask all our international partners to support an Afghan-led and Afghan-owned peace process,” said Ghani.
China is Afghanistan’s largest investor but its increased efforts to promote Afghan security also stem from its concerns that instability in the neighboring country could fuel the Muslim Uighur insurgency in the violence-hit western Xinjiang border region.
Chinese authorities suspect the separatists have links to Islamist militants entrenched in volatile areas of Afghanistan and neighboring Pakistan.
President Ghani vowed his country will not permit anyone to use Afghan territory against another state.
“We must not, and will not permit groups pursuing grand illusions to use our country as the battle ground or launching pad against the international system,” he said.
The Taliban has already rejected President Ghani’s offer of peace talks, and instead has intensified violence across the country in the last month.
Its spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid told VOA the Taliban is upset at Ghani for swiftly signing a security pact with the United States that allows around 10,000 American soldiers to remain in Afghanistan after 2014.
He accused the new Afghan president of serving American interests and insisted the Taliban does not “want to waste time talking to an administration [in Kabul] with no authority."
Afghan officials have along alleged neighboring Pakistan supports the Taliban insurgency and is sheltering its leaders.
Islamabad denies the charges and insists return of the Taliban to power in Kabul through force is detrimental to Pakistani security interests.
President Ghani while addressing the gathering in Beijing also addressed the issue without naming any country. “We are determined to lead and own the peace process through an inter-Afghan dialogue. We ask our neighbors and partners to assist us in this critical process by honestly and clearly communicating whether they have the capacity and the will to be of assistance,” he said.
The new Afghan leader has acted on several key campaign promises since taking office late last month, but promoting political reconciliation with the Taliban appears to be the most formidable challenge facing Ghani.
He has yet to assemble his national unity government in which he will have to share power with the new chief executive, Abdullah Abdullah, the runner-up in the presidential election.
Both leaders have divergent views on how to deal with the Taliban and there are fears internal political rifts in the unity government may embolden the Taliban to intensify their violent campaign to try to seize power.
Mohammad Ismail Qasemyar is a member of the Afghan High Peace Council that President Ghani’s predecessor Hamid Karzai set up to seek a political settlement with the Taliban. He said stakes are high for both the leaders as they promised a peaceful Afghanistan while running their election campaigns.
“We all believe that a lasting peace in Afghanistan and stability and security are so crucial, and whatever they had promised they will not be able to fulfill them unless there is peace and security in Afghanistan. So they will do anything that they can [to promote the national reconciliation]," Qasemyar stated.
Addressing Friday’s gathering in Beijing, Chinese Prime Minister Li Keqiang reaffirmed China has faith in Kabul’s ability to solve its own problems and urged support for Afghanistan’s efforts to realize security and stability. He said the international community should respect the country’s sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity.
A U.S. State Department official, speaking to reporters on condition of anonymity on the eve of the regional conference, welcomed China’s increased involvement in Afghanistan. As he put it, the US now regards China as a “critical player” in the region, and sees Afghanistan as an area of real cooperation with China and not one of competition.
American and Afghan officials also hope that Beijing will use its historically close strategic ties with Pakistan to convince it to crack down on Islamist extremists accused of fueling the Taliban insurgency in Afghanistan.
China Hosts Regional Conference On Afghanistan
Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty
October 31, 2014
China is hosting an international conference on Afghanistan's security and reconstruction in Beijing.
New Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, who has been on a visit to China since October 28, is headlining the forum known as the Istanbul Ministerial Process.
The annual conference brings Afghanistan and China together with more than a dozen member states and observers, including the United States.
China said on October 29 it would provide $330 million in grants to Afghanistan along with professional training and scholarships for 3,500 Afghans over the next five years.
China is a key investor in Afghanistan, which has an estimated $1 trillion worth of mineral resources, and has secured major oil and copper mining deals there.
Afghanistan and China share a 76-kilometer border between the remote, mountainous Wakhan Corridor and China's far western Xinjiang region.
Based on reporting by AP and AFP
Taliban release Russian pilot after
one and half year in captivity
Khaama Press / October 31, 2014
Taliban militants released a Russian pilot who was captured along with Turkish citizens following an emergency landing in central Logar province earlier last year.
The Taliban group following a statement said the Russian pilot Powel Petrinko was released along with his Afghan colleague on Wednesday.
“The Russian pilot, Powel Petrinko, who had recently become seriously ill, was released by the Islamic Emirate due to health reasons and after reaching an understanding with the concerned country and after taking an oath that he shall never work with the Kabul regime in Afghanistan under any pretext but shall immediately leave for his country,” Taliban said.
The statement further added, “Similarly, a solemn promise was also taken from his Afghan counterpart that he shall never carry out activities detrimental to the Mujahideen and in support of the invaders.”
Taliban had released all kidnapped Turkish nationals earlier in May last year. The Turkish citizens reported to be construction workers were flying to Khost, south-east of the capital Kabul, when their Russian Mi-8 helicopter was forced to land in the restive district of Azra on 21 April.
Rocket attack from Pakistan
injures two women in Kunar
Khaama Press / October 31, 2014
At least two women were injured following cross-border shelling in eastern Kunar province of Afghanistan on Friday.
The incident took place on Friday morning after the Pakistani military fired at least 11 artillery shells in Sarkano district.
The Ministry of Interior (MoI) said the rockets landed on a number of villages in Sarkano district.
MoI strongly condemned the shelling by Pakistani military and said the government of Pakistani remains accountable for the persistent shelling.
This comes as another woman was injured following cross-border shelling in Kunar province around two weeks ago.
The Pakistani military has been shelling eastern provinces of Afghanistan, specifically eastern Kunar province during the recent years.
Dozens of people have been killed or injured while several others have been forced to flee the area due to persistent shelling by Pakistani military.
According to reports, the Pakistani military has fired over 5,000 rockets in Kunar province during the past two years.
Afghanistan Under-19s defeat Pakistan by 69 runs
Khaama Press / October 31, 2014
The Afghanistan Under-19 cricket team defeated Pakistan by – runs during the third and final match of a 3-Day One Day International (ODI) series on Friday.
Afghanistan set a target of 224 runs for Pakistan Under-19 team after Pakistan won the toss and elected to field first.
Ihsanullah scored the highest runs for Afghanistan by making 65 runs from 70 balls, while Hazratullah Zazai made 42 runs, and Mohammad Sardar 56 runs and remained not out.
Afghanistan lost 9 wickets during the 45 over match. The remaining batsmen Rashid Khan made 18 runs, Zia-ur-Rehman 16 runs, Shahidullah 6 runs, Mohammad Zahir 4 runs, Shawkat Zaman 1 run, Sayed Waheedullah 2 runs, while Javed remained not out by scoring 1 run.
On the bowling side, Zia-ur-Rehman took 4 wickets, Shahidullah took 3 wickets, while Mohammad Zahir and Rashid Khan took one wicket each to restrict the Pakistani batsmen to 154 runs from 41.3 overs.
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