US general to recommend post-withdrawal plan for Afghanistan
The top U.S. commander for the Middle East says he will make recommendations to Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin in early June on how to monitor and fight terrorist groups in Afghanistan from beyond its borders after all American forces withdraw.
Taliban expect US withdrawal, vow to restore Islamic rule
The Taliban warned Washington against defying a May 1 deadline for the withdrawal of American and NATO troops from Afghanistan promising a "reaction". He also reaffirmed that the Taliban were firm on their demand for an Islamic government. The Taliban, who during their rule imposed a harsh brand of Islam, now control about half of the country. The joint statement emphasized that the four countries do not support the restoration of an Islamic emirate in Afghanistan similar to the Taliban's past rule. Shaheen emphasized that the Taliban would stick to the goal of building an Islamic state.
Russia hosts Afghan peace conference, hoping to boost talks
Taliban co-founder Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, center, arrives with other members of the Taliban delegation for an international peace conference in Moscow, Russia, Thursday, March 18, 2021. (AP Photo/Alexander Zemlianichenko, Pool)MOSCOW – Russia hosted a peace conference for Afghanistan on Thursday, bringing together government representatives, the Taliban and international observers in a bid to help jump-start the country's stalled peace process. Moscow’s attempt at mediation comes as talks in Qatar between the Afghan government and the Taliban, still waging an insurgency, have stalled. Washington and Kabul have been pressing for a cease-fire while the Taliban say they will negotiate it as part of peace talks with the Afghan government. Zamir Kabulov, Russian President Vladimir Putin’s special envoy for Afghanistan, told reporters that the Afghan participants in the talks showed willingness to negotiate peace.
EXPLAINER: Stakes high as Moscow opens 1st of 3 Afghan meets
Key players are attending, including U.S. peace envoy Zalmay Khalilzad, Afghan national security adviser Hamdullah Mohib and Taliban co-founder Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, who will lead a 10-member delegation. America's main goal is an Afghanistan peace deal that guarantees its national security and that of its allies. The Afghan government is corrupt and morale is low among Afghan troops. The National Afghan Security Forces are rife with so-called ghost soldiers, who exist only on paper, while enlisted men often don't get paid. At least one member of the Senate subcommittee pointed out that all sides in the Afghan imbroglio are vulnerable.
AP Interview: Karzai says US plan catalyst for Afghan peace
Former Afghan President Hamid Karzai speaks during an interview with the Associated Press in Kabul, Afghanistan, Thursday, March 11, 2021. Afghans are eager for peace and a recently floated U.S. draft for a deal between Taliban insurgents and the Afghan government is the best chance to accelerate stalled peace talks, ex-president Hamid Karzai said in an interview Thursday. (AP Photo/Rahmat Gul)KABUL – A recently floated U.S. draft for a deal between the Taliban and the Afghan government is the best chance to accelerate stalled peace talks between the country's warring sides, former Afghan President Hamid Karzai said in an interview Thursday. Karzai, considered a key player in the talks going forward, told the AP that the proposed U.S. peace plan contains important provisions that could help bring peace to Afghanistan — with some revisions by both sides. AdDespite Karzai's optimistic assessment, the Washington plan could encounter serious opposition from President Ashraf Ghani and the Taliban.
Report: Blinken offers plan to bolster Afghan peace process
Secretary of State Antony Blinken speaks on foreign policy at the State Department, Wednesday, March 3, 2021 in Washington. (Andrew Caballero-Reynolds/Pool via AP)WASHINGTON – Secretary of State Antony Blinken is proposing a series of steps to help jumpstart Afghanistan’s stalled peace process between the government and Taliban, according to a letter from Blinken to Afghanistan’s president Ashra Ghani published Sunday by Afghanistan’s TOLONews. The secretary of state has also called on special envoy Zalmay Khalilzad to share with both the Afghan government and Taliban written proposals to help accelerate discussions, according to the TOLONews report. The State Department declined to comment on the TOLONews report. “We have not made any decisions about our force posture in Afghanistan after May 1,” the State Department said in a statement.
Afghan peace talks resume, but path is anything but certain
FILE - In this Sept. 12, 2020, file photo, Taliban co-founder Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, bottom right, speaks at the opening session of peace talks between the Afghan government and the Taliban in Doha, Qatar. After more than a month of delays, escalating violence and a flurry of diplomatic activity peace talks between the Taliban and the Afghan government have resumed Monday, Feb. 22, 2021, in the Middle Eastern State of Qatar. When talks ended abruptly in January, just days after beginning, both sides submitted their wish lists for agendas. The priority for the Afghan government, Washington and NATO is a serious reduction in violence leading to a cease fire. AdWashington is reviewing the February 2020 peace deal the previous Trump administration signed with the Taliban that calls for the final withdrawal of international forces by May 1.
Biden faces calls to secure release of US man in Afghanistan
The Biden administration must determine how to handle that commitment. Frerichs' supporters are concerned that a drawdown of military personnel from Afghanistan leaves the U.S. without the leverage it needs to demand his release. AdThe State Department is offering $5 million for information leading to Frerichs' return. We will not stop working until we secure his safe return home,” said State Department spokesman Ned Price. “You don’t leave Americans behind, and I just really want to make sure that he’s home safe.”AdBlinken told reporters Wednesday that the Biden administration wanted to take a detailed look at that deal, saying.
Biden pauses Trump policies as Blinken takes diplomatic helm
WASHINGTON – The Biden administration paused or put under review a wide swath of Trump-era foreign policies as America’s new top diplomat took the helm of the State Department. Appearing in the press briefing room, which had been rarely used during the Trump administration, Blinken pledged to respect and be accessible to journalists and to restore the State Department's daily press briefings beginning next week. Of all the steps that Trump and Pompeo took in their waning days “that's the priority in my book,” Blinken said of the designation. Blinken said the administration is prepared to ease sanctions that the Trump administration re-imposed on Iran as long as Iran returns to full compliance with the 2015 deal. At that point, Blinken said the administration would look to strengthen and lengthen the terms of the accord.
Biden pauses Trump policies as Blinken takes diplomatic helm
WASHINGTON – The Biden administration on Wednesday paused or put under review a wide swath of Trump-era foreign policies as America’s new top diplomat took the helm of the State Department. Appearing in the press briefing room, which had been rarely used during the Trump administration, Blinken pledged to respect and be accessible to journalists and to restore the State Department's daily press briefings beginning next week. Of all the steps that Trump and Pompeo took in their waning days “that's the priority in my book,” Blinken said of the designation. Blinken said the administration is prepared to ease sanctions that the Trump administration re-imposed on Iran as long as Iran returns to full compliance with the 2015 deal. At that point, Blinken said the administration would look to strengthen and lengthen the terms of the accord.
Trump's presidency not just a blip in US foreign policy
But Trump’s imprint on America’s place in the world — viewed as good or bad — will not be easily erased. U.S. allies aren’t blind to the large constituency of American voters who continue to support Trump’s nationalist tendencies and his belief that the United States should stay out of world conflicts. The national security and foreign policy staff that he has named so far are champions of multilateralism. The United States has pledged to pull all U.S. troops from Afghanistan by May 1, just months after Biden takes office, but it's unclear if he will. IRANIn 2018, Trump pulled the United States out of the Iran nuclear deal, in which world powers agreed to lift sanctions on Tehran if it curbed its nuclear program.
After years fighting them, Milley talks peace with Taliban
The top U.S. military officer has held an unannounced meeting with Taliban peace negotiators to push for a reduction in violence in Afghanistan. Milley held an unannounced meeting with Taliban leaders in Doha, Qatar, to discuss military aspects of last February’s U.S.-Taliban agreement, which was intended to set the stage for direct peace talks between the Taliban and the Afghan government. In his talks with the Taliban on Tuesday, Milley urged a reduction in violence across Afghanistan, as senior American officials in Kabul warned that stepped-up Taliban attacks endanger the militant group's nascent peace negotiations with the Afghan government. Speaking in the same interview, Ross Wilson, the ranking American diplomat in Kabul, said he also sees growing risk from Taliban violence. “Military commanders on the ground are now starting to do things that are not conducive to peace talks and reconstruction and stability,” Miller said.
US senator seeks update on contractor taken in Afghanistan
A Democratic senator is calling on the State Department to prioritize the return of Mark Frerichs, an American contractor believed to have been taken by a Taliban-linked militant network in Afghanistan earlier this year. It is unclear to what extent Frerichs, who is one of Duckworth's constituents, was discussed during those meetings. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky, Pool)WASHINGTON – A Democratic senator is calling on the State Department to prioritize the return of Mark Frerichs, an American contractor believed to have been taken by a Taliban-linked militant network in Afghanistan earlier this year. “The welfare, safety, and security of Americans has always been and will continue to be our highest priority,” State Department principal deputy spokesperson Cale Brown said in a statement. Khalilzad to negotiate with the Taliban about Afghanistan," she said.
US envoy: Afghan, Taliban team ready to set talks agenda
ISLAMABAD – The U.S. envoy who brokered the ongoing peace talks between the Afghan government and the Taliban said Wednesday the two sides have overcome a three-month impasse and agreed on rules and procedures for the negotiations. But first they must decide on the agenda for the negotiations, which is the next step. A cease-fire, rights of women and minorities, and constitutional amendments are expected to top the agenda. There were no details about the document, but Taliban spokesman Mohammed Naeem said the two sides have appointed a committee to hammer out the agenda items. The Taliban have staged deadly attacks on Afghan forces while keeping their promise not to attack U.S. and NATO troops.
Explosion kills former Afghan TV presenter in capital
Afghans check car destroyed by an attached bomb in Kabul, Afghanistan,Saturday, Nov. 7, 2020.A bomb attached to the vehicle of Yama Siawash, a former presenter on Afghanistan's TOLO TV, exploded early Saturday, killing the journalist and two other civilians, Kabul police said. (AP Photo/Mariam Zuhaib)KABUL – A bomb attached to the vehicle of a former presenter on Afghanistan’s TOLO TV exploded early Saturday, killing the journalist and two other civilians, Kabul police said. According to initial reports, Siawash was near his home when the bomb attached to his car exploded. Siawash was a former TV presenter who anchored political programs on TOLO TV. Separately on Saturday, a suicide attack in the southern Zabul province killed two civilians, according to police spokesman Hikmatullah Kochai.
Afghans mourn those killed in horrific IS university attack
Journalists photograph inside Kabul University after a deadly attack in Kabul, Afghanistan, Tuesday, Nov. 3, 2020. The brazen attack by gunmen who stormed the university has left many dead and wounded in the Afghan capital. (AP Photo/Rahmat Gul)KABUL – Afghanistan declared a national day of mourning on Tuesday to honor the 22 people killed in a horrific attack a day earlier on Kabul University, which was claimed by the Islamic State group. The Islamic State affiliate also claimed the earlier attack, on Oct. 24, that killed 24 students at a tutoring center in Kabul's mostly Shiite neighborhood of Dasht-e-Barchi. Under an agreement signed with the U.S., the Taliban have committed to fighting militancy, specifically the Islamic State group.
Taliban to suspend assault after US pledges to halt strikes
Afghan families leave their houses after fighting between the Afghan military and Taliban insurgents in Helmand province, southern of Afghanistan, Tuesday, Oct. 13, 2020. The U.S. has been conducting air strikes in support of Afghan forces trying to repel week-long Taliban assaults in southern Helmand province that threatened to derail efforts to end Afghanistan's 19-year war. The Taliban pledge came after a meeting with U.S. peace envoy Zalmay Khalilzad and Gen. Austin Miller, commander of U.S. troops in Afghanistan, a Taliban figure familiar with the discussions said. The Taliban agreed to suspend their operations after the Americans said they would end drone strikes on insurgent positions, as well as night raids and air assaults, the Taliban figure said. The Taliban have not confirmed the claim, which was impossible to independently verify as much of Helmand is inaccessible to the media.
AP Interview: Top Afghan negotiator lauds India's support
Afghanistans chief peace envoy Abdullah Abdullah speaks during an interview with The Associated Press in New Delhi, India, Saturday, Oct. 10, 2020. It also signals a gradual shift in India's approach in dealing with the ongoing Afghan peace process that began two years ago, for which it has been invited to take part in for the first time. Still, India has long been reluctant in its direct engagement in Afghanistan peace talks. In May, Khalilzad called for an increased role for India in the Afghan peace process and asked New Delhi to engage directly with the Taliban. His participation was seen by many observers as India shedding its reluctance in engaging directly with the Afghan government and the Taliban.
Military blindsided by Trump's new Afghan troop withdrawal
Trump's comments, laid out in a confusing progression of comments and a tweet, alarmed Pentagon and State officials who fear that putting a definitive date on troop withdrawal could undercut negotiations to finalize a peace deal between the Taliban and the Afghan government. They also fear a hasty withdrawal could force the U.S. to leave behind sensitive military equipment. They’re not acting as troops," Trump said. This is not the first time, however, that Trump has upended military policies or troop withdrawal plans with an abrupt tweet, only to be persuaded to adjust his thinking or give the military more time to execute a more deliberate approach. McKenzie and other military officials have also said that the drawdown must be done responsibly, and that moving faster will make it more difficult to get sensitive and critical American military equipment out of Afghanistan.
US Embassy in Kabul warns of extremist attacks against women
(AP Photo/Pavel Golovkin)KABUL – The U.S. Embassy in Afghanistan warned that extremists groups are planning attacks against a “variety of targets” but are taking particular aim at women. The "Taliban don't have any plans to carry out any such attacks," the group's spokesman Zabihullah Mujahed told The Associated Press on Friday. The IS affiliate has declared war on minority Shiite Muslims and has claimed credit for horrific attacks targeting them. Women are now members of parliament, girls have the right to education, women are in the workforce and their rights are enshrined in the constitution. The 2018 Women, Peace and Security Index rated Afghanistan as the second worst place in the world to be a woman, after Syria.
Historic Afghan peace talks fraught with uncertainty
Taliban delegation arrive to attend the opening session of the peace talks between the Afghan government and the Taliban in Doha, Qatar, Saturday, Sept. 12, 2020. The big hurdle is likely to be what to do with tens of thousands of armed Taliban fighters and the militias loyal to government-allied warlords. Taliban fighters have been battling the upstart affiliate, but the Taliban have already lost fighters to the radical militant Sunni Muslim group. Many Taliban fighters are disillusioned at their leaders entering peace negotiations and believe they could win militarily, with nearly 50% of the country already mostly in their control. Washington’s watchdog, the Special Inspector General for Afghan Reconstruction, has expressed concerns that Taliban fighters returning to their homes could be targeted by corrupt officials or threatened by authorities.
Warring Afghans meet to find peace after decades of war
Saturday's launch of intra-Afghan talks, attended by U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, follows the U.S.-brokered recognition of Israel by two Gulf nations — Bahrain on Friday and the United Arab Emirates earlier this month. ”The intra-Afghan negotiations were laid out in a peace deal Washington signed with the Taliban on Feb. 29. At that time the deal was touted as Afghanistan's best chance at peace in 40 years of war. Abdullah was named to head the High Council for National Reconciliation overseeing the peace talks as part of a power-sharing agreement to end the bickering. “Trump likely wants a peace deal before the election, so that he can garner political benefits galore and pitch himself as a Nobel Peace Prize candidate.
Pompeo says Afghan negotiations likely to be 'contentious'
ISLAMABAD – Much anticipated negotiations between Afghanistan's warring parties are likely to be “contentious,” U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo warned Friday, but are the only way forward if Afghans are to find peace after decades of relentless conflict. “It’s their country to figure out how to move forward and make a better life for all Afghan people,” he said. In the countdown to this November's presidential polls, Washington has ramped up pressure to start intra-Afghan negotiations. But Pompeo warned of spoilers to peace, citing recent targeted killings in Afghanistan and an attempted assassination earlier this week of Afghan vice-president Amrullah Saleh. The six were among 5,000 Taliban prisoner the U.S. peace deal called on the Afghan government to free before the start of negotiations.
Taliban say peace talks with Afghan team to start Saturday
ISLAMABAD – The long-awaited peace talks with the negotiating team selected by the Afghan government are to begin on Saturday in the Gulf Arab state of Qatar, the Taliban said in a statement on Thursday. The start of negotiations was was also announced by Qatar's foreign ministry and Sediq Sediqqi, spokesman for Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, confirmed in a tweet that their delegation will be in Qatar's capital of Doha for the talks. The talks — known as intra-Afghan negotiations — were laid out in a peace deal that Washington brokered with the Taliban and signed in February, also in Doha, where the Taliban maintain a political office. Washington's peace envoy Zalmay Khalilzad, who negotiated the U.S.-Taliban deal signed on Feb. 29, has been in Doha for the past week, trying to push the talks forward. Washington and NATO have already begun withdrawing troops and by November America expects to have less than 5,000 troops still in Afghanistan.
Kabul begins release of final 400 Taliban, talks to follow
Afghanistan has released the first 86 of a final 400 Taliban prisoners, paving the way for negotiations between the warring sides in Afghanistans protracted conflict, the government said Friday, Aug. 14, 2020. (AP Photo/ Rahmat Gul, File)KABUL Afghanistan has released the first 80 of a final 400 Taliban prisoners, paving the way for negotiations between the warring sides in Afghanistans protracted conflict, the government said Friday. Washington's peace envoy Zalmay Khalilzad spent a year and a half negotiating the peace deal aimed at allowing American troops to return home and end America's longest military engagement. The withdrawal is not tied to successful talks between the warring sides. In 2016, Ghani negotiated a peace deal with Hekmatyar, whose Hezb-e-Islami group took responsibility for several bombings in Kabul, including one at a grocery story in the capital that killed a young family.
Traditional council frees Taliban setting up peace talks
(AP Photo/Rahmat Gul)KABUL A traditional Afghan council concluded Sunday with hundreds of delegates agreeing to free 400 Taliban members, paving the way for an early start to negotiations between Afghanistan's warring sides. The Taliban have said they were ready for talks immediately after their final prisoners were released and that a ceasefire would be one of the first items of negotiations. The move looks to bring the United States a little closer to bringing its troops home and end its longest military engagement. The Afghan negotiations were laid out in a peace deal signed by the United States and the Taliban in February. The withdrawal of U.S. and NATO troops is not dependent on the success of negotiations between Kabul's political leadership and the Taliban.
UN says thousands of anti-Pakistan militants in Afghanistan
FILE - In this March 9, 2020, file photo, Washington's peace envoy Zalmay Khalilzad, attends Ashraf Ghani's inauguration ceremony at the presidential palace in Kabul, Afghanistan. The report released this week said the organization has linked up with the Afghan-based Islamic State affiliate and some of its members have even joined the IS group, which has its headquarters in eastern Afghanistan. The report also said the monitoring team had received information that two senior Islamic State commanders, Abu Qutaibah and Abu Hajar al-Iraqi, had recently arrived in Afghanistan from the Middle East. Although in territorial retreat, (the Islamic State) remains capable of carrying out high-profile attacks in various parts of the country, including Kabul. The deal is also expected to guarantee Taliban all-out participation in the fight against the Islamic State.
Taliban make big changes ahead of expected talks with Kabul
ISLAMABAD In one of the most significant shake-ups in years, the Taliban put the son of the movement's feared founder in charge of its military wing and added powerful figures to its negotiating team ahead of expected talks aimed at ending Afghanistans decades of war, Taliban officials say. As head of a newly united military wing, 30-year-old Mullah Mohammad Yaqoob, brings his father's fiercely uncompromising reputation to the battlefield. Equally significant is the addition of four members of the insurgent group's leadership council to the 20-member negotiating team, Taliban officials told The Associated Press. Surprisingly the shuffle also sidelined senior Taliban leader Amir Khan Muttaqi, removing him from the negotiating committee. The newly strengthened negotiating team includes Abdul Hakeem, a former Taliban chief justice and confidant of Akhunzada, as well as Maulvi Saqib, chief justice during the Taliban rule.
US envoy forges ahead with troubled Taliban peace deal
FILE - In this March 9, 2020 file photo, Washington's peace envoy Zalmay Khalilzad, attends Ashraf Ghani's inauguration ceremony at the presidential palace in Kabul, Afghanistan. The U.S. signed a peace deal with the Taliban in February to end 19 years of war in Afghanistan. Khalilzad has sought to stress the economic benefits of the peace deal throughout his tour. Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid denied contacts with Al-Qaida in the Indian Subcontinent, saying the insurgents were committed to the peace deal. The peace deal called for the Afghan government to free 5,000 Taliban prisoners, in exchange for the Taliban releasing 1,000 government personnel.