NATO Will Support Afghan Forces After A Peace Deal: Envoy
By Tamim Hamid
28 August 2019
NATO Senior Civilian Representative for Afghanistan, Nicolas Kay, said that international forces will still remain in Afghanistan even after a peace deal to support the Afghan National Defense and Security Forces.
His comments come two days after Reuters cited some unnamed Taliban members saying the US will cease its support to Afghan forces once a peace deal is signed.
Mr. Kay said NATO will also help the Afghan government and the country’s election management body in holding the presidential election scheduled for September 28.
Addressing the Model United Nations meeting in Kabul on Wednesday, Mr. Kay said there is a need for NATO military presence in Afghanistan until all threats are eliminated from the country.
“Let me assure you very very clearly, NATO is not leaving, NATO is committed to staying and supporting Afghan national defense and security forces,” Mr. Kay said.
While Washington’s peace efforts with the Taliban have raised skepticisms on whether the Afghan presidential election will be held in the specific timeline, the NATO envoy said the alliance will fully support Afghans to conduct the polls.
“Let me be clear on the NATO position, our NATO task is to support the security for the elections, and we are supporting Afghan national security and defense forces prepare for elections on the 28 of September,” he said.
He also said that the alliance will work together with Afghans to protect the gains the country has made in its strides towards democracy such as human rights, civil liberties, women’s rights, strengthening of the role of women and the youths in the peace process.
“The main discussion of the committee is on peace and security,” said Rahmatullah Hamdard, an event organizer.
“Efforts are underway so that the elections are held on time,” said Mirza Mohammad Haqparast, a spokesman for the Independent Election Commission.
No Timeline For Troop Withdrawal In Afghanistan: Trump
27 August 2019
US President Donald Trump at a press conference on the last day of G7 Summit in Biarritz, France, said there is no timeline for US forces’ withdrawal from Afghanistan.
The negotiations between the US and the Taliban negotiators are underway in Doha, Qatar, with the hope to reach an agreement which will enable the withdrawal of part of US forces, almost 5,000 troops, from Afghanistan.
Mr. Trump, however, said “whatever it is”, there is “no rush”.
“We’re there, we’re really a peacekeeping force more than anything else, frankly. We could win that war in a very short period of time, but I’m not looking to kill 10 million people, Okay?” Mr. Trump said, repeating his recent controversial comments on winning the war in Afghanistan.
The US president pointed out to his administration’s efforts in talking with both the Afghan government and the Taliban as the two sides of the war.
“And we are working along with the Taliban, with the government and other people too, we will see what happens,” he said.
This comes as sources said on Monday that the US and the Taliban negotiators have made progress on establishing safe zones in parts of Afghanistan after the withdrawal of international forces from the country.
The sources said that based on the safe zone strategy, a ceasefire will be announced in every province from where US forces would leave while nationwide ceasefire will be implemented after the complete withdrawal of American forces.
A Taliban spokesman in Doha Suhail Shaheen in a tweet on Tuesday said the talks will resume at 11 am Kabul time to discuss and agree on the remaining points.
At the same time, the US Special Representative for Afghanistan Reconciliation, Zalmay Khalilzad, rejected the reports which say the United States will stop funding the Afghan National Security and Defense Forces as part of a peace deal between the US and the Taliban.
Trump’s Troop Statement ‘Impacts’ US-Taliban Deal
By Hasiba Atakpal
27 August 2019
The negotiations between the US and the Taliban on finalizing a peace deal have been slowed down after US President Donald Trump’s statement who said Washington is not rushing to pull out the American forces from the country, sources familiar with the negotiations said on Tuesday.
Mr. Trump who has been pushing for a diplomatic settlement to America’s longest war in Afghanistan said at a press conference on the last day of G7 Summit in Biarritz, France, that his administration had no rush to withdraw US forces from the country, something the Taliban have been pushing for in the past eighteen years to end the conflict in Afghanistan that has taken the lives of thousands of Afghan civilians and security force members.
“Whatever it is”, there is “no rush”, said Trump on Monday at a press conference at the sideline of the G7 summit.
“I personally don’t think that the agreement will be finalized today [Tuesday],” a former Taliban commander Sayed Akbar Agha said. “Trump’s argument that there will be a powerful intelligence presence as and there will be no timeline [for troop withdrawal], can be evaluated as a challenge for previous talks.”
This comes as senior negotiators from the US and the Taliban continue their ninth round of talks in Doha, Qatar, with the hope to seize an agreement which will support a partial withdrawal of US forces, almost 5,000 troops, out of 14,000 troops currently deployed the country.
On Tuesday, Suhail Shaheen, a spokesman to Taliban’s political office in Doha said in a Twitter post that the two sides are working hard to finalize their discussions on all issues related to a final peace agreement.
“You know that the war in Afghanistan is not the war between the Afghan government and four Taliban fighters. Powerful, regional and beyond regional countries are involved in this war. So we cannot expect an eighteen or nineteen years-long war to be settled in nine rounds of talks,” a woman MP Habiba Danish said.
“Naturally, there are concerns and reservations among those partnering in this war or have a role in it. I believe that it took a lot of time and it is now heading towards finalization, and now there are the technical issues which will determine the implementation of the commitments defined in the agreement. These are the key issues on which they resumed their talks today [Tuesday] at 10 am and I hope that this turns into the favor of the country,” said Habiba Danish, an MP.
Journalists who are covering US-Taliban talks in Doha have also reported progress on mutual issues between the two sides.
Sources said that the US Special Representative for Afghanistan Reconciliation Zalmay Khalilzad who leads the US in the talks with the Taliban is expected to return to Kabul once the US and the Taliban seal the final peace agreement where he will brief the Afghan political leaders and government officials about intra-Afghan negotiations.
Troop Withdrawal Saga
The Taliban who have been waging the war against the US, NATO, and Afghan forces have persistently said that there will be no deal with the US side unless Washington commits to withdrawal all its troops from the country. But critics in the US and Afghanistan have been saying that any hasty move on troop pullout will open the way for a new crisis in the country.
The Taliban who once were branded as terrorists by the US have assured that they will not allow Afghanistan’s soil to be used as a launchpad for attacks against the US or other countries once the US leaves the country.
However, critics have been suggesting that it is naïve to trust the Taliban assurances in the wake of their brutal attacks in the past.
Among the critics is the US was Senator Lindsey Graham who recently asked Trump administration not to reduce the number of American forces in Afghanistan less than 8,600 soldiers.
“Mr. President, if you don’t have a counter-terrorism force left behind, even if you got to deal with the Taliban which I doubt but you might they have no the capability or will to protect the American homeland. Every national security advisor to this president unanimously believes we need a robust counter-terrorism force to make sure that ISIS and al-Qaeda do not regenerate in Afghanistan to hit the American homeland,” Graham said in an interview with CBS.
When asked how many US troops should remain in Afghanistan, Mr. Graham said: “The number is gonna be around 8,600. To go below that I think would be really risky.”
Over the past one year, the US officials and senior negotiators from the Taliban have held discussions over a potential agreement that is focused on four key issues: a Taliban assurance that it will not allow Afghanistan’s territory to be utilized by anyone as a safe haven to conduct attacks outside the country, complete withdrawal of US and NATO forces, intra-Afghan negotiations and a permanent ceasefire.