Kabul welcomes US assurances on Taliban deal

Updated September 08, 2019

Email

US Defence Secretary Mark Esper holds a news conference with French Defence Minister Florence Parly (not pictured) at the residence of French Defense Minister in Paris, France on September 7. — Reuters
US Defence Secretary Mark Esper holds a news conference with French Defence Minister Florence Parly (not pictured) at the residence of French Defense Minister in Paris, France on September 7. — Reuters

KABUL: The Afghan government on Saturday welcomed a pledge by the Pentagon that the US would only accept a “good deal” from the Taliban after a wave of insurgent attacks sparked concerns of a hasty US withdrawal.

During a wide ranging press conference in Paris earlier on Saturday US Defence Secretary Mark Esper sought to allay fears that Washington was looking for a quick exit from Afghanistan as it inches closer to a potential deal with the Taliban.

“My view, the US view is that the best way forward is a political agreement and that’s what we’re working diligently on right now,” Esper told reporters.

“That doesn’t mean we’ll take any deal, but we want to make sure we have a good deal, a good enough deal that guarantees at least the security of our countries going forward and a brighter future for the Afghan people.” The remarks were greeted warmly in Afghanistan where the Taliban in the past week have attacked several provincial capitals and targeted Kabul with suicide bombers.

“The Afghan Government welcomes the latest remarks made by the Pentagon Chief on AFG peace process,” presidential spokesman Sediq Sediqqi wrote on Twitter.

“We echo the need for sustainable peace, end of violence and a meaningful peace that would guarantee the security of Afghanistan and its allies.”

According to parts of the deal made public so far, the Pentagon would pull about 5,000 of its roughly 13,000 or so troops from five bases across Afghanistan by early next year.

The insurgents in turn will renounce Al Qaeda, promise to fight the Islamic State group and stop jihadists using Afghanistan as a safe haven.

Taliban kidnap six Afghan journalists

Taliban kidnapped six Afghan journalists working for private and government media organisations in eastern Paktia province, government officials and Taliban said on Saturday.

The reporters, working for radio and TV news companies that broadcast news in the Pashto and Dari languages, were abducted while travelling together from neighbouring Paktika province to Paktia to attend a media workshop on Friday.

“We are trying to negotiate their release with the Taliban,” said Abdullah Hasrat, a spokesman for Paktia’s governor.

A Taliban spokesman confirmed the abduction of six journalists by their fighters but said they will be released soon.

“Yes, our mujahideens (fighters) have mistakenly kidnapped them,” said Zabihullah Mujahid, a spokesman for the hardline insurgent group.

“Right now mobile services are not working, but they will be released as soon as we establish contact with the local commander,” he said.

Afghanistan was the deadliest country in the world to be a journalist in 2018, with 13 deaths according to the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ).

The International Federation of Journalists said 16 journalists were killed last year.

In June, the Taliban issued a threat to Afghan media, saying journalists will be targeted unless news outlets stop broadcasting what they describe as government propaganda against the insurgents.

Media organisations were given one week to stop transmitting “anti-Taliban advertisements” by the group’s military commission, a warning that was denounced by the Afghan government and western diplomats.

In 2016, a Taliban suicide bomber rammed his car into a bus carrying employees of Tolo TV, the countrys largest private broadcaster, killing seven journalists.

Published in Dawn, September 8th, 2019