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October 20, 2020

Taliban’s claim of accord violations unfounded, says Zalmay Khalilzad

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October 20, 2020

KABUL: The US special envoy Zalmay Khalilzad has tweeted that the recent Taliban remarks about Doha agreement violations are “unfounded,” and that “inflammatory rhetoric” does not advance peace.

“Instead, we should pursue strict adherence to all articles of the US-Taliban Agreement and US-Afghanistan Joint Declaration,” said Khalilzad.

“Taliban attacks in Helmand, including on the provincial capital; Taliban attacks against Afghan security forces; and Taliban complaints of ANDSF operations and coalition strikes led to a recent meeting in Doha,” said Khalilzad, apparently referring to a meeting between himself, US Gen. Miller and the Taliban in which, Khalilzad reported earlier, there would be a “re-set” and operations of all sides would decrease so casualties would be reduced.

“The belief that says violence must escalate to win concessions at the negotiating table is very risky. Such an approach can undermine the peace process and repeats past miscalculations by Afghan leaders,” says Khalilzad.

Khalilzad says that in the Doha meeting, all sides agreed to decrease attacks and strikes and reduce violence and casualties. But although violence in Helmand has decreased, violence overall in the country remains high, he said.

The Taliban has blamed the United States forces in Afghanistan for violating the deal the two sides signed in Doha back in February, something that critics say will further complicate the ongoing peace efforts in the war-hit country.

The group issued a statement on Sunday, saying that US forces — in contravention of the peace deal — have bombed non-conflict zones in Helmand, Farah and a few other provinces. The statement warned that the consequences of such bombings will be on the United States.

The Taliban assert that according to the Doha agreement, US forces cannot conduct strikes except in certain conditions, but recently “the United States forces conducted airstrikes and drone strikes on areas in Nahri Saraj, Khoshkawa, Babaji, Gereshk, Sangin, Nawa and Nad Ali districts as well as in Farah and other provinces.”

These strikes, the Taliban statement said, “are a clear violation of the Doha agreement.” The US forces last week confirmed they had conducted airstrikes in Helmand to support their Afghan partners in the fight against the Taliban, who attacked different parts of the province nearly two weeks ago.

The Helmand conflict has left more than 5,000 families displaced, according to the Directorate of Refugees and Repatriation in Helmand. Meanwhile, over 40 schools that enroll thousands of students have been closed due to the conflicts in the province, according to the education directorate in Helmand. US forces in Afghanistan in a statement rejected the statement by the Taliban. “We categorically reject the Taliban’s claim the United States has violated the US-Taliban Agreement.

US airstrikes in Helmand and Farah have been and continue to be solely in defense of the ANDSF as they are being attacked by the Taliban,” US forces spokesman in Afghanistan Col. Sonny Leggett said. The increase in violence comes amid the ongoing peace negotiations in Doha that have faced a deadlock over two disputed points: The religious basis for the talks and the connection of the US-Taliban agreement with the negotiations.