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Ghani's Jirga set recommendation for Taliban talks

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Topic: Ghani's Jirga set recommendation for Taliban talks
Posted By: AfghanistanNews
Subject: Ghani's Jirga set recommendation for Taliban talks
Date Posted: 02-May-2019 at 3:52am

An Afghan grand council on Thursday agreed on several recommendations for peace talks with the Taliban, after four days of meetings in Kabul meant to hammer out a common strategy for future negotiations.

Ghanis Jirga sets recommendations for Taliban talks

President Ashraf Ghani had convened the council of more than 3,200 participants, known as Loya Jirga, earlier in the week. Though the gathering is consultative and its recommendations are not binding for Ghani, it underscored his government's effort to project a unified stance.

However, a number of prominent Afghans, including Ghani's partner in the unity government, Chief Executive Abdullah Abdullah, boycotted the council, which ends on Friday.

The U.S. has in recent months stepped up efforts to resolve Afghanistan's 17-year war -- America's longest conflict - and has been pressing for direct talks between the Taliban and Kabul. The insurgents refuse to talk to the government, considering it a U.S. puppet, though they have held several rounds of talks with U.S. peace envoy Zalmay Khalilzad.

The participants in the Loya Jirga - which included politicians, tribal elders, many prominent figures and others -- were divided into dozens of committees and discussed several issues, including a cease-fire and women's rights in keeping with the tenets of Islam.

The Taliban have so far refused to accept any cease-fire until the roughly 17,000 NATO troops - 14,000 of whom are American - withdraw from Afghanistan.

The council overwhelmingly backed talks between Kabul and the Taliban and also called for the U.N. to remove its global terrorist designation for the Taliban, a long-standing demand of the insurgents.

But after holding an opening speech Monday, Ghani gave the chairmanship of the council to Abdul Rasool Sayyaf, a former warlord with past links to Osama bin Laden and the militants who took control of Kabul after the collapse of the communist government in the early 1990s. He is known for adhering to a strict interpretation of Islam, and refusing to meet with women.

Still, the council expressed its support for women's rights and said the country must not backtrack from the gains that women have made since the U.S.-led invasion in 2001 ousted the Taliban regime, which had harbored al-Qaida.

Meanwhile, Khalilzad embarked on another round of talks with the Taliban Wednesday in Qatar, where the insurgents maintain a political office. Those talks are narrowly focused on U.S. troop withdrawal and Taliban guarantees that Afghanistan will not be used to stage global terrorist attacks.

Earlier in the week, Khalilzad visited Pakistan and was also in Moscow, where a trilateral meeting that also included China issued a statement supporting U.S. efforts to find an end to the protracted Afghan war.

Khalilzad on Wednesday also met Indonesia's Foreign Minister Retno Marudi, who had met a day earlier with the Taliban chief negotiator, Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, the day earlier.

Source: AP

Afghan officials called for a ceasefire on Thursday as a huge peace summit wound down in Kabul after thousands of delegates spent days discussing possible conditions for a peace deal with the Taliban.

This week£s "Loya Jirga," or grand assembly, saw more than 3,000 religious and tribal leaders, politicians and representatives from across the country gather under tight security to discuss the possibility of peace.

The Taliban, who were not at the talks, are this week separately meeting in Doha with US peace envoy Zalmay Khalilzad in a bid to make a deal with Washington that could see the withdrawal of foreign forces from Afghanistan.

While the full results of the summit may not be announced until Friday, several committee leaders said they wanted to see an immediate pause in violence, which has continued apace across Afghanistan even with various peace summits taking place.

"Every day, Afghans are being killed without any reason. An unconditional ceasefire must be announced," said Mohammad Qureshi, head of one of the jirga's many committees.

Huge swathes of Afghan society worry that if the US does make a deal with the Taliban, the militant group would try to seize power and undo advances in women's rights, media freedoms, and legal protections.

The Taliban has steadfastly refused to talk to the Afghan government, which it views as a puppet regime.

That means that even if the US and the Taliban can agree to a deal to end the war and a timetable for an eventual troop withdrawal, the insurgents must still forge some kind of an accord with Afghan politicians and tribal elders before an enduring ceasefire could kick in.

"We dont want such a peace that women's rights are not respected, freedom of expression are not ensured, elections are not held," committee member Faizullah Jalal told the summit.

Several delegates also rejected Taliban and opposition calls for an interim government when President Ashraf Ghani's term expires this month.

"It is you who will show the government the way towards peace and the government will do what you demand," jirga chairman Abdul Rab Rasul Sayyaf said.

"No one will impose anything on you," he said.

Several opposition figures had boycotted the assembly, complaining it amounted to a political rally for Ghani, but Sayyaf said the summit was not aimed at supporting any particular candidate for the September presidential elections.

The loya jirga is a centuries-old tradition in Afghanistan that has been convened at times of national crisis or to settle big issues.

Source: AFP




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