ISLAMABAD: The countries that are part of the ‘extended troika’ on Afghanistan have called for sustained peace process, reduction in violence in Afghanistan and safety and security of the diplomatic personnel and property and foreign forces in the war-ravaged country as US and Nato troops withdraw from there.

The ‘extended troika’ comprising the US, Russia, China and Pakistan met in Doha on Friday. The last meeting of the format set up by Russia was held on March 18.

The troika also held meetings with the Afghan negotiating team and a Taliban delegation.

A joint declaration issued by the participating countries emphasised that “during the withdrawal period, the peace process should not be disrupted, no fights or turbulence shall occur in Afghanistan, and the safety of international troops should be ensured.”

Taliban say free to take any action against occupation forces as US has violated Doha accord

The statement came as US forces began to leave Afghanistan in line with President Joe Biden’s announcement of starting the withdrawal on May 1. The pull out of the troops would continue till Sept 11.

President Biden revised the earlier timeline committed by his predecessor Donald Trump for pulling out all troops by May 1. Taliban under that agreement did not attack the foreign forces.

However, in a statement issued on Saturday, a Taliban spokesman said that US had itself violated the principle set in the Feb 2020 US-Taliban agreement and the insurgents were now free to take any action against the occupying forces.

The spokesman said the fighters would wait for the decision of the leadership in accordance with “the sovereignty, values and higher interests of the country”.

The withdrawal of US troops started amid escalating violence in Afghanistan. At least 30 people were killed and 100 others wounded in a vehicle bomb blast in Pul-e-Alam, capital of Logar province, on Friday evening. Meanwhile, Taliban insurgents on Saturday captured an Afghan army base in Ghazni killing scores of soldiers.

Pul-e-Alam attack was denounced by Pakistan as a handiwork of “enemies of peace negotiations”.

“We reiterate our call on all parties to the conflict in Afghanistan to reduce the level of violence in the country and on the Taliban not to pursue a Spring offensive. We condemn in the strongest terms any attacks deliberately targeting civilians in Afghanistan and call on all parties to respect their obligations under international humanitarian law in all circumstances, including those related to protection of civilians,” the extended troika statement said.

The troika made it unequivocally clear that “diplomatic personnel and property” were “inviolable”, and those threatening or attacking the diplomats and the diplomatic facilities “would be held accountable”.

In response to apprehensions that Taliban may overrun Kabul after the withdrawal of foreign forces, the troika re-emphasised that “the establishment in Afghanistan of any government imposed by force” would not be supported.

The participating countries, meanwhile, reaffirmed their support for delisting of Taliban by the United Nations Security Council Sanctions Committee.

“We support a review of the status of designations of Taliban individuals and entities on the UN 1988 sanctions, as stated in the UNSC resolution 2513 (2020). Practical measures to reduce violence and sustained efforts to advance intra-Afghan negotiations by the Taliban will positively affect this review process,” the declaration issued by the troika said.

It has been one of the Taliban complaints that the promise of delisting made with them during the peace talks had not been fulfilled.

Repeating the long held position, the participating countries called on all Afghans, including Kabul and the Taliban, to ensure that terrorist groups and individuals did not use Afghan soil to threaten the security of any other country.

Published in Dawn, May 2nd, 2021

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