Wednesday, June 29

Afghanistan: Resistance leader says he wants peace talks with the Taliban | Afghanistan

The leader of the Afghan opposition group resisting Taliban forces in the Panjshir Valley has said he welcomes proposals from religious scholars for a negotiated settlement to end the fighting.

Ahmad Massoud, head of the National Resistance Front of Afghanistan (NRFA), made the announcement on the group’s Facebook page on Sunday. Earlier, Taliban forces claimed that they had made their way to the provincial capital of Panjshir province, north of Kabul, after securing surrounding districts.

Fahim Dashti, the resistance spokesman, was reportedly killed in a battle on Sunday. Dashti was the voice of the group, an adviser to Massoud, and a prominent media personality during previous governments. He was the nephew of Abdullah Abdullah, a top ousted government official who has been involved in negotiations with the Taliban over the future of Afghanistan.

It comes with US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, who will arrive in Qatar on Monday seeking a united front with regional allies shaken by the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan.

The Taliban seized control of Afghanistan three weeks ago and seized power in Kabul on August 15 after the Western-backed government collapsed and President Ashraf Ghani fled the country.

Massoud, whose forces have been the last stand against hardline Islamists, said in his Facebook post that he wanted to “achieve a lasting peace.”

“The NRF in principle agrees to resolve the current problems and immediately end the fighting and continue the negotiations,” Massoud said.

“To achieve a lasting peace, the NRF is ready to stop fighting on the condition that the Taliban also stop their attacks and military movements in Panjshir and Andarab,” he said, referring to a district in neighboring Baghlan province.

Then a big meeting of all parties could be held with the Ulema council of religious scholars, he said.

Earlier, Afghan media reported that religious scholars had asked the Taliban to accept a negotiated settlement to end the fighting in Panjshir.

There was no immediate response from the Taliban.

Massoud, who leads a force made up of remnants of the regular Afghan army and special forces units, as well as local militiamen, called for a negotiated settlement with the Taliban before fighting broke out a week ago.

Several attempts at talks were made, but ultimately failed, with each side blaming the other for their failure.

A Taliban spokesman, Bilal Karimi, claimed earlier on Sunday that his forces had made their way to the provincial capital, Bazarak, seizing weapons and ammunition.

Before leaving the United States, Blinken said he would convey to the Qatari government the “deep gratitude” of the United States for acting as a gateway for the 55,000 people who left Afghanistan during the chaotic Taliban takeover. It was almost half of the total evacuated by the US-led forces after the staggeringly quick victory of the Taliban.

Blinken plans to meet with rescued Afghans, as well as American diplomats, who have moved functions from the closed embassy in Kabul to Doha.

On Wednesday he will head to the US Ramstein Air Base in Germany, a temporary home for thousands of Afghans moving to the United States, from where he will hold a virtual ministerial meeting of 20 nations on the crisis together with the German Foreign Minister, Heiko Maas.

Blinken will also speak to the Qataris about efforts alongside Turkey to reopen the dilapidated Kabul airport, an urgent priority needed to transport urgently needed humanitarian aid and evacuate the remaining Afghans.

The Taliban have vowed that they will continue to allow Afghans to leave if they wish, one of the key issues that US allies hope to discuss in talks in Germany.

The United States says it will oversee follow-up on commitments made by the Taliban as it determines its future course with the Islamists, whose regime toppled in 1996-2001 by US forces was known for an ultra-austere interpretation of Islam that included public executions and severe restriction. of women’s rights.

US officials have said that Blinken does not plan to meet with the Taliban, who have also made Doha their diplomatic base from which they negotiated a US withdrawal with the previous Donald Trump administration.

British Defense Secretary Ben Wallace has suggested that the United States is no longer a superpower and Armin Laschet, leader of German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s ruling party and a candidate to succeed her, described the mission in Afghanistan as “the biggest debacle” in the history of NATO. .

Biden, like Trump, argued that nothing more could be accomplished in America’s longest war and that the Afghan government, funded by the United States for 20 years, needed to fend for itself.

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