Afghan Peace Talks Underway in Doha Amid Escalating Violence

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Top Afghan peace negotiator Abdullah Abdullah and US Special Representative for Afghanistan Reconciliation Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad are also in attendance, reports Asian Lite Newsdesk

Amid unabated violence in Afghanistan, a three-day conference is underway in Doha, Qatar to discuss the peace process in the war-torn country, with attendance from the Taliban, the US, and a host of other countries.

The participants at the high level titled Troika Plus include representatives from the UN, Qatar, US, UK, EU, China, Uzbekistan and Pakistan.

Top Afghan peace negotiator Abdullah Abdullah and US Special Representative for Afghanistan Reconciliation Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad are also in attendance.

Participants will discuss the Afghan peace process, Ariana News reported.

Feraidoon Khozon, a spokesperson for the Chairman of the High Council for National Reconciliation (HCNR), said: “Afghan delegation will convey its message of reduction in violence and accelerating peace negotiations in this meeting.”

Meanwhile, US special envoy Khalilzad who left Washington for Doha on Sunday had said he will push the Taliban to stop their military offensive and engage in peace talks with the Afghan government.

Later Tuesday, during a presser, a State Department spokesperson had said that “…Ambassador Khalilzad is there to seek to advance and seek to support. He will press the Taliban to stop their military offensive and to negotiate a political settlement.”

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This meeting in Troika Plus format comes on the heel of the UNSC’s special session on Afghanistan where member states expressed concern about the deteriorating situation and called for a political settlement.

Afghanistan is witnessing a surge in violence as the Taliban has intensified its offensive against Afghan forces and civilians with the complete pullback of foreign forces just a month away.

Kabul could fall to Taliban in 1-3 months’

The United States is concerned that the Taliban could capture Kabul in 1-3 months, far sooner than previous intelligence assessment suggested, The Washington Post reported on Wednesday, citing informed American officials.

According to the newspaper, the situation in the country is now worse than it was in June when the US intelligence predicted that Kabul could collapse in 6-12 months after the American troop pullout from Afghanistan.

“Everything is moving in the wrong direction,” a source familiar with the new intelligence assessment told the paper.

The hostilities between the Afghan government and the Taliban have intensified as foreign troops began withdrawing from the country. The Taliban have since captured large rural territories and launched an offensive on major cities.

White House spokesperson Jen Psaki said on Tuesday that President Joe Biden continues to believe it is not inevitable the Taliban take over Kabul or entire Afghanistan.

Finance Minister leaves country

Afghanistan’s acting Finance Minister Khalid Payenda has stepped down and left the country following pressure from the presidential palace, local media reported.

According to sources, Payenda is not likely to return to Afghanistan. A letter from the Ministry of Finance, referred to by the TV channel, says the minister left the country “on an official visit,” Sputnik reported.

His resignation comes at a time when Afghanistan is witnessing a surge in violence amid US-led foreign troops’ pullback from the war-torn country.

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“Today I stepped down as the Acting Minister of Finance. Leading MoF was the greatest honor of my life but it was time to step down to attend to personal priorities. I’ve put Mr. Alem Shah Ibrahimi, Deputy Minister for Revenue & Customs in charge until a new minister is appointed,” Payenda wrote on Twitter.

In less than a week, the Taliban captured seven out of 34 provincial capitals in the country. UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet on Tuesday informed that at least 180 people have been killed while more than 1,180 have been wounded in four Afghan cities alone since July 9 as Taliban offensives have escalated.

The Afghan government forces and the Taliban must stop fighting “to prevent bloodshed.”If they fail to return to the negotiating table and reach an agreement, the situation for the Afghan people will become “even worse”,” Sputnik reported citing Michelle Bachelet. (ANI/Sputnik)

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