Nato calls for Taliban to end violence in Afghanistan

Donald Trump wants to fulfil election pledge to finish America’s 'endless war'

NATO helicopters fly over the city of Kabul, Afghanistan June 29. 2020. REUTERS/Omar Sobhani
NATO helicopters fly over the city of Kabul, Afghanistan June 29. 2020. REUTERS/Omar Sobhani

Nato has urged the Taliban to cease its violent campaign and allow a peaceful solution to the decades-long war after the alliance adhered to its commitment to reduce troop numbers.

As the US continues to withdraw troops and close bases, there has been a surge in Taliban violence as part of a tactic to press the government into releasing prisoners.

Given the effect of coronavirus on civilians, Nato urged the Taliban to “agree to a humanitarian ceasefire”.

Despite the terrorism, US President Donald Trump has continued to reduce troops numbers, which are now down to 8,600 from a high of more than 100,000 in 2010.

Mr Trump wants to fulfil an election pledge to finish America’s “endless war”, as the November election moves closer.

A day before a base closure, the Taliban blew up a government centre killing 11 security forces troops and wounding 63 civilians, including children.

In its formal statement, Nato called for a “political resolution” to bring “sustainable peace to the Afghan people” and condemned the continuing Taliban attacks.

Vehicles are seen on fire after a blast in Jalalabad, Afghanistan January 24, 2018.REUTERS
Vehicles are seen on fire after a blast in Jalalabad, Afghanistan January 24, 2018.REUTERS

“The current level of violence, driven especially by Taliban attacks against Afghan National Defence and Security Forces, remains unacceptably high, causing instability and undermining confidence in the peace process,” it said.

Nato said it would lower its number of troops if the Taliban fulfilled their commitments to an agreement signed four months ago in return for s US force reduction, but insisted Afghanistan should never again “become a safe haven for terrorists”.

Nato said it had a long-standing commitment to Afghanistan.

“It is time for all parties to seize this moment for peace,” it said.

The US said its deal with the Taliban had entered the "next phase", but it urged the militants to reduce rising violence.

On Tuesday the Taliban accused US forces of breaching the accord.

The two sides signed a pact in February in which Washington pledged to withdraw all troops from Afghanistan by the middle of next year.

In return, the insurgents promised to hold negotiations with the Afghan government to end the long-running conflict.

US special representative on Afghanistan, Zalmay Khalilzad, who negotiated the deal for Washington, tweeted that both sides had reached a "key milestone".

"The US has worked hard to carry out first phase of its commitments under the agreement, including to reduce troops and depart five bases," Mr Khalilzad said on Monday.

As the deal entered its "next phase", Washington's approach would be based on certain conditions, he said.

"We will press for completion of prisoner releases, reduction of violence and start of and progress in intra-Afghan negotiations," Mr Khalilzad said on Twitter.

The Taliban on Tuesday welcomed the cut in US forces, but claimed that American troops had frequently carried out bombings in non-combat zones and offensives in support of the Kabul government.

It also accused US pilots of air strikes against civilians, the Taliban and public infrastructure in the past 10 days.

"These all are blatant violations of the agreement and deliberate attempts at provoking the mujahideen towards large-scale attacks," the Taliban said.

'Violence has been high'

Since the deal, the Taliban have increased attacks, killing hundreds, officials say.

Mr Khalilzad said "large numbers" of Afghans continued to die, while acknowledging that no American had been killed since the deal.

"Violence has been high, especially in recent days and weeks," he said.

Mr Khalilzad condemned a Taliban attack on Monday on a rural office of Afghanistan's intelligence agency, which killed 11 security personnel.

"The Taliban's attack contradicts their commitment to reduce violence until a permanent ceasefire is reached in intra-Afghan talks."

Washington's top diplomat in Kabul, Ross Wilson, also slammed the Taliban for Monday's attack in the northern city of Aybak.

"This attack in a provincial capital is an escalation that violates the understanding in our agreement with the Taliban to reduce violence and minimise civilian casualties," he wrote on Twitter.

Afghanistan's intelligence agency warned of "retaliatory attacks" against the Taliban and said they were not fulfilling their obligations under the US deal.

"The group plans and carries out attacks with the co-operation of foreign terrorist groups, including the Al Qaeda network," the National Directorate of Security said on Tuesday.

Under the US-Taliban deal, the insurgents agreed to stop Al Qaeda from using Afghanistan as a safe haven to plot attacks.

But in the months since, the Taliban have continued to work with Al Qaeda in the Indian Subcontinent, a Pentagon report said this month.

Civilian casualties

Peace talks between the Taliban and Kabul hinge on an almost-completed prisoner exchange agreed to in the deal with US.

The government has so far released more than 4,000 Taliban inmates, while the insurgents have freed more than 600 Afghan security personnel.

Afghanistan's Independent Human Rights Commission said in a report on Tuesday that in the first six months of this year, 1,213 civilians were killed and 1,744 wounded in 880 incidents across the country.

It said the figures showed a drop of 11 per cent from the first half of 2019.

Updated: July 15, 2020 12:29 AM


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