Taliban says no cease-fire with Kabul during Ramadan

Taliban says no cease-fire with Kabul during Ramadan
Taliban says no cease-fire with Kabul during Ramadan

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Jeddah - Yasmine El Tohamy - ISLAMABAD: Taliban attacks on Afghan forces are not a threat to a peace agreement signed with the US earlier this year because there is no cease-fire with Kabul, the militant group’s chief negotiator said Friday.
Sher Abbas Stanikzai, who secured the landmark peace deal for the group earlier this year, also said that the US had “failed to honor” its commitment to secure the release of 5,000 Taliban inmates.
“There is a complete cease-fire of the Islamic Emirate with the US under the agreement with the Americans and, as mentioned in that document, a cease-fire with the Kabul administration will be discussed when the intra-Afghan dialogue starts,” Stanikzai told Arab News in an exclusive interview, using the group’s own description.
“A separate agreement will be signed with the Kabul administration for a cease-fire.”
The agreement, which was signed on Feb. 29, called for the gradual withdrawal of foreign troops from Afghanistan and the release of Taliban prisoners in exchange for 1,000 government security forces held by the group.
The deal required the prisoner exchange program to be concluded by March 10, following which both parties were to start a dialogue for a sustainable cease-fire and to decide on the future political roadmap for Afghanistan.
Stanikzai defended the Taliban’s attacks on Afghan forces.
“There is no mention of a cease-fire with the Kabul administration in the agreement,” he reiterated. “Reduction in violence and cease-fire will be discussed in the intra-Afghan dialogue. These negotiations have not yet started.”
NATO on Friday urged the Taliban to reduce violence and create conditions to commence negotiations. It also called on the group to fulfil its commitments to ensure that terrorists “never again find a haven on Afghan soil.”

FASTFACT

The agreement, which was signed on Feb. 29, called for the gradual withdrawal of foreign troops from Afghanistan and the release of Taliban prisoners in exchange for 1,000 government security forces held by the group.

“War is not one-sided from the Islamic Emirate,” said Stanikzai. “They (the Afghan forces) also carry out operations. They issued statements a few days ago that they had reclaimed areas from the Mujahideen after several years. They are also conducting raids. The Kabul administration and the Americans are to be blamed for the fighting since they are not ready for the intra-Afghan dialogue. They have not fulfilled the condition of releasing 5,000 Taliban prisoners before the start of the intra-Afghan dialogue. If they honor the commitment today, the intra-Afghan dialogue will start tomorrow,” he said.

When asked if Taliban violence posed any threat to the agreement he replied that routine operations against government forces would not create any problem since there was no significant difficulty in the deal with the US.
“The Americans committed some violations, but such mistakes are possible in a 20-year-old war. But we are in close contact with them and have taken up the issue with the US envoy, Zalmay Khalilzad, and the US commander, General Scott Miller, this month and they have promised not to repeat these mistakes in the future,” he said. “Both sides have formed a channel for the implementation of the agreement. The channel comprises the Taliban negotiators and a team of Americans. They regularly hold meetings in Doha and are making efforts to fully implement the agreement inside Afghanistan.”
US military spokesman in Afghanistan Col. Sonny Leggett denied the Taliban’s allegation in a series of tweets earlier this month, saying US forces had “upheld and continues to uphold the military terms of the US-TB (Taliban) agreement; any assertion otherwise is baseless.”
He also urged the Taliban to reduce violence.
On Thursday Deborah Lyons, head of the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan, encouraged everyone to get behind the secretary-general’s urgent call for a global cease-fire to “silence the guns and enable all Afghans to come together to fight the pandemic.”
Several Afghan officials have been reported as saying that dozens of security personnel have been killed in recent Taliban attacks in different parts of the country, resulting in Afghan President Ashraf Ghani appealing to the Taliban, on Wednesday, to declare a cease-fire during Ramadan which began in Afghanistan on Friday.
But the Taliban’s political spokesman, Suhail Shaheen, rejected the appeal as “illogical” and accused the government of “creating hurdles for the peace process.”
The office of the Afghan National Security Adviser said Friday that the government had released 550 Taliban prisoners. The insurgents said they had freed up to 60 government prisoners.

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