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DATE PUBLISHED: 1399/02/27 - 14:30:0
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Khalilzad Briefs Reporters on Afghan Situation

The US Special Representative for Afghanistan Reconciliation Zalmay Khalilzad on Friday briefed the US State Department on the situation in Afghanistan, particularly the situation which has emerged in the country following Tuesdayís deadly attacks on a maternity hospital in capital Kabul.

The US envoy condemned the attack but said that there is an historic opportunity for all Afghans to work together and move forward for a political settlement of the conflict in their country.

"I want to condemn the barbaric attacks that took place, particularly the attack on the maternity hospital. We sympathize and empathize with the people of Afghanistan. I know that they are tired of war, they want the war to end, and we stand with them," Khalilzad told the audience from Kabul during an on-the-record briefing organized by the US Department of State.

At least 24 people, among them two newborn babies, were killed in an attack on the Dash-e-Barchi 100-bed hospital which is home to a maternity clinic run by Doctors Without Borders (MSF).

Khalilzad stated that the recent violence has raised questions about the peace process, but he said that there is no alternative to pushing forward with peace.

No military solution:

"There is consensus, both in Afghanistan and internationally, that there is no military solution to the war in Afghanistan; that a political solution, a peace agreement among Afghans, is the only realistic option at the present time," he said.

On the US-Taliban peace agreement, the US envoy Khalilzad said: "The United States-Taliban agreement opens a historic opportunity for moving forward on peace."

"We have urged all sides to reduce violence. We have urged Afghans to come together to take advantage of the historic opportunity and have pushed President Ghani and Dr. Abdullah to reach a political agreement to form an inclusive government," said Khalilzad.

Although the US, NATO and other western countries in the past few months have persistently urged the Taliban to reduce violence, the Taliban have increased their offensives on the Afghan Security and Defense Forces (ANDSF) since the US-Taliban peace agreement on February 29.

On April 25, the figures provided by the Office of the National Security Council (ONSC) indicated that the Taliban had conducted an average of 55 attacks per day since the signing of the peace deal with the United States in Doha on February 29.

ONSC spokesman Javid Faisal at a press conference said that the Taliban conducted 2,804 attacks from the beginning of March to April 19, adding the group "does not remain committed to the reconciliation process that will help the country to end decades of war."

Ghani last month on the eve of Ramadan appealed to the Taliban to enact a ceasefire, in light of the pandemic spreading across the country.

The Taliban responded by calling the appeal improbable and insincere considering the governmentís continued detention of thousands of Taliban prisoners--vulnerable to contracting COVID-19--and for causing other "hurdles" to be in the way of the peace process.

The Afghan government so far has released some 1,011 Taliban prisoners as part of efforts to expedite intra-Afghan talks and to prevent the spread of COVID-19 in jails.

In reciprocal move, the Taliban has released 253 Afghan Government prisoners.

The Taliban demanded the release of 5,000 prisoners from the jails in the peace agreement with the US in Doha.

itís now been more than two months since the intra-Afghan talks were supposed to start, and still they havenít begun.

On the intra-Afghan talks, Khalilzad said: "We believe the sooner the intra-Afghan negotiations begin, the sooner peace will come, and it will be best that this intra-Afghan negotiation happen when we have substantial forces in southern Afghanistan."

On the Afghan political impasse, Khalilzad said: "We support of course the Afghans coming together and forming an inclusive government."

Khalilzad said that there are forces such as Daesh that doesnít see peace in Afghanistan in its interests and are trying to increase violence, to undermine the prospect for peace.

On the Taliban attack on a military facility in Paktia province that killed five civilians, Khalilzad said: "Car bomb attack is very negative. We urge the Talibs who say that attack took place because of the governmentís declaration of going on offensive, and that there be de-escalation by all sides, and that there should be reduction of violence, not further escalation that would undermine, complicate the moves to intra-Afghan negotiations and the prisonersí release."

Ghaniís vows crushing response:

Defending his military strategy against insurgents, Ashraf Ghani on Friday said his administration will never oppose efforts for peace and reconciliation, but warned that the Afghan armed forces deserve the right to defend the nation against threats and create conditions for a dignified peace.

Referring to the recent spate of deadly attacks in Afghanistan, Ghani asked the Afghan National Security and Defense Forces (ANDS) to give the "final response" to the perpetrators of the recent attacks so that they agree on a justified and equal peace.

"Today, once again, there is a need for you (ANDSF) to demonstrate your hidden power and bring out your swords from the sheath," Ghani said as he addressed members of the Afghan commandos.

The Afghan government insists on military supremacy at a time when foreign parties in the conflict in Afghanistan--such as the US and Russia--have warned that Kabulís harsher military action could pose devastating blows to the Afghan peace process.

 

LINK: https://www.ansarpress.com/english/17601


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