Wed, 23 Sep 2020

Taliban Continue Attacks as Peace Negotiations Progress

Voice of America
17 Sep 2020, 04:05 GMT+10

ISLAMABAD - Multiple Taliban attacks in three provinces across northern Afghanistan since Tuesday killed at least 17 people, including six civilians, and wounded scores of others even as a Taliban political team was negotiating peace with Afghan government representatives in Doha, Qatar.

According to local officials, Taliban fighters targeted security checkpoints or outposts of local anti-Taliban militias that operate with government support.

In Balkh province, the chief of Char Kent district, Salima Mazari, confirmed two separate Taliban attacks, one on a local force outpost and the other near the district center. She said three local fighters and six civilians were killed and multiple others wounded. This was in addition to a third attack the previous day that killed two security personnel.

In nearby Kunduz province, Taliban attacks killed six security personnel, according to Esmatullah Muradi, a spokesman for the provincial governor. The head of the provincial council, Mohammad Yosouf Ayubi, said the death toll was higher.

Meanwhile, in Takhar province, two civilians were killed and 12 wounded from a blast caused by an improvised explosive device. Police said the device was hidden on a motorcycle.

The spate of violence accompanied historic peace negotiations that started Saturday in Doha. Both sides acknowledge ending four decades of conflict would be difficult and require patience.

Welcoming the start of the negotiations, Zalmay Khalilzad, a senior United States official who was paramount in bringing the Taliban to sign a deal with the U.S. in February, reminded both sides that they would have to compromise and share power for a lasting solution.

"Recent Afghan history shows that seeking a monopoly of power and enforcing one's ideology by force leads to conflict and makes the country vulnerable to interference by others," Khalilzad tweeted.

Both the Afghan team and Taliban indicated Wednesday that the negotiation process was progressing, and the two sides had agreed on procedural matters.

The two sides shared the same details of the Tuesday meeting with the media, indicating an effort to show forward movement and minimize discussion on disagreements, at least at the start of the crucial process.

Nader Naderi, the spokesman for the Afghan team, said they had decided to "finalize the remaining part ASAP."

The start of negotiations Saturday was welcomed inside and outside Afghanistan; however, Afghan activists have warned against sacrificing human rights, particularly the rights of women and freedom of speech, in the name of ending the war.

Sediqullah Tawheedi, the deputy head of the Afghan Journalist Safety Committee, said the government's negotiation team should defend freedom of the press and freedom of speech in the Doha talks.

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