Afghan government urges Taliban to stop violence, hold direct talks

KABUL: Afghan President Ashraf Ghani urged the Taliban on Sunday to end violence and talk directly to his government after US President Donald Trump announced he had canceled a planned meeting with the insurgent group over a draft peace accord.

“Real peace will come when Taliban agree to a ceasefire,” Ghani’s officials said in a statement in response to Trump’s cancellation of the secret peace talks.

Trump unexpectedly announced on Saturday that he had canceled peace talks with the Taliban’s “major leaders” at a presidential compound in Camp David, Maryland after the group claimed responsibility for an attack in Kabul last week that killed an American soldier and 11 other people.

US diplomats have been talking with Taliban representatives for months seeking to agree to a plan to withdraw thousands of American troops in exchange for security guarantees by the Taliban.

A source close to the Taliban leadership in Afghanistan said the group will hold a meeting to discuss all aspects of ongoing negotiations before issuing a statement.

“Trump’s tweets do not clarify if the deal has been canceled, he has just called-off the talks at this stage,” the source said.

Trump says he cancelled peace talks with Afghan Taliban

The Taliban have rejected calls for a ceasefire and stepped up assaults in recent weeks.

As negotiators reached a draft accord last week, Taliban fighters, who now control more territory than at any time since the war started in 2001, were launching assaults on the northern cities of Kunduz and Pul-e Khumri. They claimed responsibility for two major suicide bombings in the capital Kabul.

Trump’s surprise announcement left in doubt the future of a draft peace accord worked out last week by Zalmay Khalilzad, the special US envoy for peace in Afghanistan.

Under the accord some 5,000 US troops would be withdrawn over the coming months in exchange for guarantees Afghanistan would not be used as a base for militant attacks on the United States and its allies.

A full peace agreement to end more than 18 years of war would depend on “intra Afghan” talks involving officials and civil society leaders as well as further agreement on issues including the remainder of the roughly 14,000-strong US forces as well as thousands of other NATO troops.

However the Taliban have so far refused to talk to the Afghan government, which they consider an illegitimate “puppet” regime.


Nine former US ambassadors last week had warned that Afghanistan could collapse in a “total civil war” if Trump withdraws all US forces before the Kabul government and the Taliban conclude a peace settlement.

A spokesperson for Ghani said Trump’s decision to cancel talks at a time when the Taliban continue to mount attacks proved the concerns expressed by the Afghan government about the deal were acknowledged.

“The peace talks provided an opportunity to the Taliban to embrace political life,” Sediq Sediqqi told reporters in Kabul.

“We (the Afghan government) expected an outcome leading to a ceasefire and holding direct talks with the Taliban but we did not see any real effort from their (Taliban) end,” he said.


US wants to withdraw thousands of troops in return for the group renouncing al Qaeda and curbing attacks

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