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Sunday October 24, 2021

Intense talks for next Afghan set up

Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar arrived in Kabul on Saturday for talks to establish a new "inclusive" government in Afghanistan

August 22, 2021

ISLAMABAD: As the Taliban enter into the last stage of cobbling together an inclusive government, Pakistan Saturday reached out to Russia, Turkey and the OIC, stressing peace and stability in Afghanistan is ‘extremely important’ for the entire region.

Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi called up his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov, Turkish counterpart Mevlut Cavusoglu and OIC Secretary General Yousef bin Ahman Al-Othaimeen stressing the importance of a comprehensive political settlement in Afghanistan.

The OIC secretary general also apprised the foreign minister of an “extraordinary meeting” of the organisation convened on August 22 (Sunday) to discuss the rapidly changing Afghan situation.

Qureshi added that the current situation in Afghanistan required sustained international engagement to ensure stability and long-term economic development.

Speaking to his Turkish counterpart, Qureshi exchanged views on bilateral relations and reviewed the latest situation in Afghanistan, said the Foreign Office.

Reiterating Pakistan’s support for a peaceful, stable and prosperous Afghanistan, Qureshi underlined the importance of an inclusive political solution as the best way forward.

The foreign minister added that Pakistan’s National Security Committee (NSC) had underscored the importance of peace and stability in Afghanistan for Pakistan and the region.

Qureshi expressed hope that the Afghan leaders would work together to achieve an inclusive political settlement. He also apprised his Turkish counterpart of Pakistan’s facilitative role in evacuation of personnel of embassies, international organizations, media entities and others.

Cavusoglu appreciated Pakistan’s role in the current situation and thanked Foreign Minister Qureshi for facilitating Turkey’s evacuation efforts.

Talking to Lavrov, Qureshi raised the importance of Pakistan and Russia as part of Troika Plus with China playing a pivotal role in establishing peace in Afghanistan.

The minister emphasised that ensuring the security of Afghan citizens and protecting their rights should be the first priority in the current situation.

“The path to lasting peace in Afghanistan can be paved through a comprehensive political settlement,” he said.

“The path to lasting peace in Afghanistan can be paved through a comprehensive political settlement,” he said.

The two foreign ministers also agreed to continue mutual consultations in light of the changing situation inside Afghanistan.

Qureshi highlighted that Pakistan had deep bilateral relations with Russia, adding that the former “also welcomed promotion of bilateral cooperation between the two countries in various fields.”

He also said Pakistan was committed to the early implementation of the Stream Gas Pipeline Project — a flagship strategic venture between the countries for gas transportation from Karachi to Kasur.

In a separate phone call, the foreign minister also spoke to OIC's Al-Othaimeen, and exchanged views on the rapidly changing situation in Afghanistan.

According to a statement shared by the Foreign Office, Qureshi underscored that Pakistan would continue to play its constructive role in promoting sustainable peace and stability in Afghanistan.

He reiterated the hope that Afghan parties would work for an inclusive political settlement.

“The success of negotiations in Kabul would not only benefit Afghanistan, but also the region.”

The foreign minister emphasised that it was imperative for the international community to remain engaged with Afghanistan by supporting the country’s economy, reconstruction, rehabilitation and humanitarian needs.

He added that it was also important for the Muslim world to show its solidarity with Afghan people in their quest for a "peaceful, united, stable and prosperous Afghanistan".

Highlighting the significance of efforts towards establishing an inclusive government, Qureshi also warned about spoilers within and outside Afghanistan seeking to exploit the situation.

The foreign minister highlighted the role played by Pakistan in facilitating evacuations and the relocation of personnel from diplomatic missions, international organisations, media and others from Afghanistan.

He expressed hope that the talks in Kabul would succeed, leading to an inclusive and participatory government that would bring lasting peace, progress and prosperity to Afghanistan.

Qureshi received a telephone call from Heiko Maas, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Germany.

The two leaders exchanged views on the latest developments in Afghanistan.

Qureshi underlined the critical importance of peace and stability in Afghanistan. He added that an inclusive political settlement was the best way forward and Pakistan supported efforts in that direction.

Meanwhile, Taliban co-founder Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar arrived in Kabul on Saturday for talks to establish a new "inclusive" government in Afghanistan, a senior official said.

A senior Taliban official told AFP that Baradar would meet "jihadi leaders and politicians for an inclusive government set-up".

Hours later, pro-Taliban social media accounts showed Haqqani announcing that Ahmad Massoud -- the son of Afghanistan´s most famed anti-Taliban fighter Ahmad Shah Massoud -- had "declared allegiance" to the movement.

Massoud had earlier this week appealed to the United States to supply arms to his resistance movement in the Panjshir Valley, northeast of Kabul, saying he wanted to follow in his father Ahmad Shah Massoud´s footsteps. Massoud has not issued a statement.

Baradar arrived in Afghanistan last Tuesday from Qatar, choosing to touch down in Kandahar.

Within hours of his return, the group announced its rule would be "different" this time.

Meanwhile, forces holding out against the Taliban in northern Afghanistan say they have taken three districts close to the Panjshir valley where remnants of government forces and other militia groups have gathered.

General Bismillah Mohammadi, who has vowed to resist the Taliban, said in a tweet that the districts of Deh Saleh, Bano and Pul-Hesar in the neighbouring province of Baghlan to the north of Panjshir had been taken.

It was not immediately clear what forces were involved but the incident adds to scattered indications of opposition to the Taliban.

Local television station Tolo News quoted a local police commander who said Bano district in Baghlan was under the control of local militia forces and said there had been heavy casualties. The Taliban did not comment on the incident.

In a related development, the Afghan government employees in Kabul were blocked by Taliban from returning to work on Saturday.

Since the Taliban seized power six days ago, government buildings, banks, passport offices, schools and universities have remained largely closed.

Only a few private telecommunication companies have been operating in the past few days.

Roads leading to the foreign ministry in central Kabul were also closed, an employee of the ministry told AFP.

"They aren´t allowing anyone to enter the ministry building," he said on condition of anonymity.

"One of them even told me to wait until the new minister and directors are appointed."

The foreign exchange market was also shut as it awaited instructions from the central bank, traders said.

Workers at the offices of the Ministry of Rural Rehabilitation in Kabul were, however, allowed to enter after showing their ID cards, an employee said.

The US military in Afghanistan sent helicopters to rescue over 150 Americans unable to reach the Kabul airport gates, an official said Friday.

The news came as American officials confirmed evacuation operations from Afghanistan stalled for about seven hours Friday, because the receiving base in Qatar was overflowing and could not take in evacuees.

That left thousands more Afghans already cleared to leave their country for the United States waiting at the Kabul airport.

"It was early this morning, and it lasted about six to seven hours," Major General Hank Taylor told reporters, adding the backlog was subsequently cleared.

In a related development, the United States and Germany Saturday advised their nationals in Afghanistan to avoid travelling to Kabul airport, citing security risks as thousands gathered trying to flee the country almost a week after Taliban took control.

Crowds have grown at the airport in the heat and dust of the day over the last week, with mothers, fathers and children pushed up against concrete blast walls in the crush as they seek to get a flight out.

“Because of potential security threats outside the gates at the Kabul airport, we are advising US citizens to avoid travelling to the airport and to avoid airport gates at this time unless you receive individual instructions from a US government representative to do so,” a US Embassy advisory said.

The German embassy also advised its local citizens not to go to the airport, warning in an email that the Taliban were conducting increasingly strict controls around the airport.

A senior US military official said there had been short periods in the last 24 hours when the gates to Kabul airport have been closed, but no reported change in the “enemy” situation in and around the single-runway airfield.

The Pentagon Saturday said approximately 17,000 people had been evacuated by the US from Afghanistan in the past week.

Maj. Gen. Hank Taylor of the Joint Staff said there had been around 22,000 people total evacuated from Afghanistan since the end of July.

Meanwhile, Russia's President Vladimir Putin and Turkey's Tayyip Erdogan discussed the Afghan situation during a phone call and agreed to strengthen bilateral coordination on Afghan issues, the Kremlin said in a statement on Saturday.

The presidents emphasised the priorities were counter-terrorism and tackling drug trafficking, the Kremlin said.

President Erdogan voiced hopes for a soft transition in the country and said that it was important for the Taliban not to repeat the previous mistakes and to keep their promises with an ethnically inclusive approach.

"The new government to be formed in Afghanistan should be inclusive and representative of the diversity of the Afghan people," Erdogan told Putin according to a readout following the call.

Meanwhile, hundreds of protesters gathered in central London on Saturday, disturbed by the Taliban's takeover of Afghanistan.

Many of those who have roots in the country draped themselves in its black, red, and green national flag, which is now banned by the Taliban.

Instead, the Taliban now fly a white flag across the nation bearing the Islamic oath, "There is no god but Allah and Muhammad (SAW) is God’s messenger."

Some of the protesters carried banners saying the US and Nato had failed.

The UK has promised to take in 20,000 refugees over the next five years but only 5,000 in the first year.