US general meets Taliban leaders in Doha

Published April 12, 2020
The Taliban have accused US forces of aiding the Afghan government with air support, causing civilian casualties. — AFP/File
The Taliban have accused US forces of aiding the Afghan government with air support, causing civilian casualties. — AFP/File

KABUL: The head of US and Nato forces in Afghan­istan has met Taliban leaders to discuss a reduction in violence in the war-weary cou­ntry, officials said on Saturday, with the insurgents accusing the Ameri­cans of violating a landmark agreement.

Washington signed a key deal with the Taliban in February that promised the withdrawal of US and foreign troops from Afghan­istan by next summer, provided the militants start talks with Afghan government officials and adhere to other guarantees.

US General Scott Miller held discussions with the group’s representatives in Doha on Friday night, US for­ces spokesman Sonny Leg­gett said.

“General Miller met with Taliban leadership last night as part of the military channel established in the agreement. The meeting was about the need to reduce the violence,” he said.

Suhail Shaheen, a Taliban spokesman, said the meeting was about the “implementation of the agreement as well as its violations, particularly attacks and night raids in non-combat areas”.

The Taliban have accused US forces of aiding the Afghan government with air support, causing civilian casualties. The US has denied the allegations.

A US military spokesman called on the Taliban to stop attacking Afghan security forces and said American troops would continue to come to their aid in accordance with the agreement.

The militants say they have reduced their attacks on Afghan forces and have not attacked US or Nato troops since the agreement was signed on Feb 29. Most of the recent Taliban attacks have been against Afghan forces posted in remote areas.

The Afghan government meanwhile said its air force struck Taliban positions in the Badakhshan province, killing up to 27 insurgents.

Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahed said civilians were killed and wounded, blaming US and Afghan forces. The US military spokesman declined to respond to the allegation but said that the Taliban often falsely accuse the US of carrying out bombing raids launched by Afghan forces.

Another US defence official accused the militants of making false allegations in a bid to pressure the US into pushing forward a prisoner release swap with Kabul.

The deal requires the Afghan government — which was not a signatory to the accord — to free up to 5,000 Taliban prisoners, and for the militants to release 1,000 pro-government captives in return.

A small Taliban team met government officials to discuss a comprehensive prisoner swap last week, but walked out of the talks soon after officials offered a piecemeal release of the prisoners.

The administration of President Ashraf Ghani on Wednesday released 100 low-risk Taliban prisoners followed by another 100 inmates the next day — a move dismissed as “unacceptable” by the insurgents.

Published in Dawn, April 12th, 2020

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