Afghan government urges Taliban to stop violence

Vastavam web: Afghan President Ashraf Ghani urged the Taliban on Sunday to end violence and talk directly to his government after U.S. President Donald Trump announced he had cancelled a planned meeting with the insurgent group over a draft peace accord. “Real peace will come when Taliban agree to a ceasefire,” Ghani’s officials said in statement in response to Trump’s cancellation of the secret peace talks.

Trump unexpectedly announced on Saturday that he had cancelled peace talks with the Taliban’s “major leaders” at a presidential compound in Camp David, Maryland after the group claimed responsibility for an attack in Kabul last week that killed an American soldier and 11 other people.

A source close to the Taliban leadership in Afghanistan said the group will hold a meeting to discuss all aspects of ongoing negotiations before issuing a statement. “Trump’s tweets do not clarify if the deal has been canceled, he has just called-off the talks at this stage,” the source said.

As negotiators reached a draft accord last week, Taliban fighters, who now control more territory than at any time since the war started in 2001, were launching assaults on the northern cities of Kunduz and Pul-e Khumri. They claimed responsibility for two major suicide bombings in the capital Kabul. Trump’s surprise announcement left in doubt the future of a draft peace accord worked out last week by Zalmay Khalilzad, the special U.S. envoy for peace in Afghanistan.

A full peace agreement to end more than 18 years of war would depend on “intra Afghan” talks involving officials and civil society leaders as well as further agreement on issues including the remainder of the roughly 14,000-strong U.S. forces as well as thousands of other NATO troops. But nine former U.S. ambassadors last week had warned that Afghanistan could collapse in a “total civil war” if Trump withdraws all U.S. forces before the Kabul government and the Taliban conclude a peace settlement.

A close aide to Ghani said Trump’s decision to cancel talks at a time when the Taliban continue to mount attacks proved the concerns expressed by the Afghan government about the deal were acknowledged. Trump said on Saturday that he had also planned to meet with Afghanistan’s president, who has been sidelined from the talks by the Taliban’s refusal to talk to what they consider an illegitimate “puppet” regime.

Ghani’s office said in a statement it was committed to working together with the United States and allies for a “dignified and long-lasting peace”, and emphasised the holding of the presidential election this month. Ghani is seeking a second tenure in elections scheduled for Sept. 28, but the Taliban want the elections to be cancelled as a precondition to signing a peace accord with the Americans.