Ceasefire, new constitution top Afghan peace talks in Doha
Khalilzad returns to the region: All Australian troops now out of Afghanistan
Peace delegations from the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan and the Taliban held a series of talks in Doha over the past few days with the dialogue mainly focused on at least five key issues, including a future constitution, ceasefire, political roadmap and the political participation in the transition period, sources familiar with the process confided to TOLOnews.
Najia Anwari, a spokesperson for the State Ministry for Peace Affairs also said that serious discussions are taking place between the Afghan Republic and the Taliban negotiators in Doha in the past few days. “These meetings are held after every single night between the two sides and the discussions are focused on a number of important issues,” she said.
The Taliban so far have not said anything about the topic.
Meanwhile, the US Special Representative for Afghanistan Reconciliation Zalmay Khalilzad has said that he was surprised by recent advances by the Taliban. However he added that a military takeover was not the solution to the conflict in Afghanistan.
“I’m not surprised that the conflict has intensified, but I am surprised by the progress that the Talibs have made and I’m hoping that the Afghan forces with help from their friends will find their bearing and push back. But again I repeat, there is no military solution,” said Khalilzad who architected a peace deal between the US and the Taliban in Doha last February.
“The Taliban know that they need to be accepted as part of the future of Afghanistan, not to be a pariah. To invade Kabul and impose a government will put all the things they want internationally at risk. We will not recognize a government in Afghanistan that is imposed by force,” Khalilzad said.
The US State Department said in a statement that Zalmay Khalilzad, has departed for travel to South and Central Asia as well as the Middle East on July 9.
“In his travel, Ambassador Khalilzad will continue to engage in determined diplomacy and the pursuit of a peace agreement between the Islamic Republic and the Taliban. As part of the United States’ ongoing support of the peace process, he will work with all parties and with regional and international stakeholders to further advance a consensus on a political settlement,” the statement said.
The US State Department said that political accommodation on the part of all sides remains urgent. "The sooner the sides can agree to a negotiated settlement, the sooner Afghanistan and the region can reap the benefits of peace, including expanded regional connectivity, trade, and development," it added.
"In Tashkent, Ambassador Khalilzad will participate in an international conference hosted by the Government of Uzbekistan on regional connectivity,” the statement concluded.
Moreover, the US Serectary of State Antony Blinken after holding talks with his Pakistani and Qatari counterparts said that all these countries have a key role to play with regard to peace in Afghanistan.
“Without reaching an agreement with the Taliban, it would be difficult to bring peace in Afghanistan,” said MP Nematullah Karyab.
In the meantime, Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has said that based on agreement with the US and NATO, Turkey will take responsibility of providing security to the Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul.
All Australian troops out
Peter Dutton has confirmed all of Australia's defence troops have now been withdrawn from Afghanistan. The Defence Minister said there had been 1,500 troops in the country, which was recently reduced to 80, and now they have all been withdrawn under the advice of the chief of defence.
The withdrawal comes earlier than the original September deadline.
"That doesn't mean we won't be a part of campaigns with the United States perhaps involving the SAS or special forces where we deem that to be in our national interest or in the interest of our allies," he told Sky News on Sunday morning. "For now though, that campaign has come to an end."
It comes amid calls for the government to do all it can to protect Afghans who assisted Australia during its mission in the war-torn country.
Locals who were employed by Australian agencies to assist as interpreters and other roles now fear they could be murdered by the resurgent Taliban, which considers them “traitors” for working with foreign forces.
Mr Dutton said the government was taking a “rigorous approach” to granting protection visas, saying it “makes no apology for that”.
“If we’ve got the wrong person here, somebody who had played both sides, somebody who had worked for us in 2016, 2013, 2010, but had now affiliated with the Taliban … I suspect people that are making the calls for that individual to be here would be not seen and not heard of," he said.
Former prime minister John Howard, who sent Australia into Afghanistan, told SBS News earlier this week the country bears a moral responsibility to help the Afghans who worked with Australian agencies. “Where it is clearly the case that they could be in danger of retribution, we have an obligation to help them if necessary, by giving them visas to come to live in Australia,” he said.
“That is a moral obligation we have. And it was a moral obligation that was shamefully discarded many years ago when we pulled out of Vietnam. I do not want to see a repetition of that failure in relation to Afghanistan."
Prime Minister Scott Morrison said on Friday he “absolutely agrees” with Mr Howard and the government was "moving on that as quickly and as safely as it possibly can".
A number of Afghans have told SBS News they applied for the government's Afghan Locally Engaged Employees (LEE) visa program but were rejected because they were indirectly employed by Australia.
More than 230 visas have been granted to Afghans and their families under the LEE program since 15 April, when Australia joined the UK and US in announcing a full troop withdrawal from Afghanistan. More than 1,480 visas have been granted since 2013.