Category Archives: afghanistan

US wants India to bring Hamid Karzai around

http://www.hindustantimes.com/India-news/NewDelhi/US-wants-India-to-bring-Hamid-Karzai-around/Article1-1081845.aspx?hts0021

An America obsessed with the idea Pakistan’s assistance is necessary for an orderly withdrawal from Afghanistan, pushed a soft line on Pakistan with the Indian government.

US secretary of state John Kerry, during the fourth Indo-US strategic dialogue, urged his Indian interlocutors to prod a reluctant Afghan President Hamid Karzai to come around to supporting talks with the Taliban.

“You have good ties with Karzai,” Kerry reminded the Indian side, as he urged India to use its influence on the Afghan president for the peace talks with the Taliban, sources told HT.

It is learnt that at the discussions, Pakistan didn’t figure in a major way and  Kerry mostly stuck to the line of improving trade ties and the “positive signals” Pakistan PM Nawaz Sharif was sending to  India.

At a press briefing, Kerry refused to answer a question as to whether the Haqqani network, a Taliban affiliate close to the ISI, would be part of the proposed peace talks.

According to sources, in another side of a soft Pakistan line, the US was reluctant in “adequately emphasising” standard formulations  like “Pakistan being a safe haven for terrorists” in the context of Afghanistan.

In a bid to assuage Indian concerns on the Afghan peace process, Kerry reassured, “We will consult very closely with India and with others in the region.”

He also said that the Taliban, would have to “disassociate themselves from al-Qaida and from violence” and respect the constitutional protections for women and minorities.

As the Af-Pak region remains a bone of contention between the two sides, the US was looking at greater economic relations to improve ties.

And in strategic terms, both sides sought greater salience in the Indian Ocean and the Pacific region as part of a rebalancing strategy.

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Kerry asks India to play greater role in Aghanistan, Iran negotiations

http://www.firstpost.com/world/kerry-asks-india-to-play-greater-role-in-aghanistan-iran-negotiations-901005.html

Apart from seeking the implementation of the civil nuclear deal and various other topics, US Secretary of State John Kerry today said that they looked to India to play a greater role in resolving issues between the US and nations like Afghanistan and Iran.

Emphasising that any talks with the Taliban, following the setting up of a political office in Qatar, would be process led by the Afghan people, Kerry said that the US would be briefing Indian authorities about the process.

Thanking India for its support in Afghanistan, Kerry said that were in touch with Afghan President Hamid Karzai.

“This is an Afghan-led process,” Kerry said.

Noting that there were certain conditions to be met, like the Taliban severing ties from terror groups like the al-Qaeda, he said,” If these conditions are met, then negotiations will take place with the high peace council of Afghanistan.”

“It is better to explore the possibility of having a peaceful resolution if it is possible,” he said.

John Kerry and Salman Khurshid. AFP

John Kerry and Salman Khurshid. AFP

He said he hoped that talks with the Taliban would provide “an avenue for the reduction of violence,” but in the event that it did not, the US was prepared to continue to train and equip Afghan armed forces well beyond 2014.

The US secretary of state, who is on his maiden visit to the country, said he is certain that India will encourage President Karzai to ensure all provisions are made for free, fair and transparent elections in Afghanistan.

“The people of Afghanistan need to see and feel that the elections are free and fair,” he said, adding that India needed to help it.

The US also expects India to convince the new leadership in Iran to prove to the world that its nuclear programme was indeed for peaceful purposes as claimed.

Kerry said that the US understood India’s relationship with Iran and hoped that India will urge the new leadership there not to “miscalculate” the US’ intention.

“We urge Iran to prove to the world that their peaceful nuclear programme is indeed peaceful. We hope India will help us, ” Kerry said.

He also said the US is looking forward to the early implementation of civil nuclear deal with India.

The two ministers said that they have had substantial discussions on tackling terrorism, joint ventures in space co-operation, defence, development, education, agriculture and health.

Minister of External Affairs Salman Khurshid said that he and US Secretary of John Kerry have struck a right note during the bilateral talks.

“We have so far done a lot of good work to keep the India-US relationship growing and on a personal note Kerry and I seem to have struck a right note,” Khurshid said.

He said that the two countries have exchanged 112 senior officials in high level visits with the US and both the countries will continue to build on the good work done so far.

Kerry reiterating Khurshid’s opinion on having struck the right note and said Vice President Joe Biden will visit India towards the end of July to strengthen ties between the two nations.

Afghan Taliban claim deadly U.S. attack at Bagram Air Base

http://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/asia/2013/06/19/Afghan-Taliban-claim-deadly-U-S-attack-hours-after-peace-moves-.html

Wednesday, 19 June 2013
A U.S. soldier at Bargram Air Base, about 60km from Kabul. (Photo courtesy: U.S. Air Force)
Al Arabiya

The Taliban on Wednesday claimed responsibility for the killings of four U.S. forces in an overnight attack on Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan, just hours after Washington said its officials would meet the insurgents for talks.

“Last night two big rockets were launched at Bagram (air base) which hit the target. Four soldiers are dead and six others are wounded. The rockets caused a major fire,” Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid told AFP news agency by telephone.

A U.S. official told Reuters news agency late Tuesday that insurgents attacked the base with some kind of indirect fire, leaving open the possibility it was hit by rockets or mortar rounds.

Earlier, President Barack Obama had welcomed the planned talks between the U.S. and the Taliban as an “important first step” but warned of a long and bumpy road ahead as Afghan and NATO troops continue to battle a 12-year insurgency.

The Taliban broke off contact with the Americans last year and have always refused to negotiate with Kabul, but on Wednesday they unveiled an office in Qatar “to open dialogue between the Taliban and the world”.

Infographic: NATO withdrawal from Afghanistan (Design by Farwa Rizwan / Al Arabiya English)

Their statement, however, made no direct reference to peace talks.

Wednesday also saw NATO’s formal transfer of responsibility for security to the Afghan police and army. About 100,000 international combat troops, 68,000 of them from the U.S., are due to withdraw by the end of next year.

(With AFP)

Karzai threatens to boycott Taliban talks

http://www.aljazeera.com/news/asia/2013/06/20136197363618634.html

Afghan President Hamid Karzai says his officials will not take part in negotiations in Doha.

Last Modified: 19 Jun 2013 14:50
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Al Jazeera speaks to Shukria Barakzai, an Afghan MP, about the suspension of talks with the United States
The Afghan government has said it will boycott talks with the Taliban in the Qatari capital, Doha, until the process is “Afghan-led”.

“As long as the peace process is not Afghan-led, the High Peace Council will not participate in the talks in Qatar,” President Hamid Karzai said in a statement on Wednesday, referring to a body he set up in 2010 to seek a negotiated peace with the Taliban.

The announcement came hours after Afghanistan, upset over what it called the US’ “inconsistent statement and action” over the peace process with the Taliban, said it was suspending security negotiations with Washington.

Wednesday’s developments came a day after the US said it would engage in direct negotiations with the Taliban, who officially opened a political office in Doha a day earlier.

“The president suspended the BSA [Bilateral Security Agreement] talks with the US this morning,” Aimal Faizi, President Karzai’s spokesman, said.

“There is a contradiction between what the US government says and what it does regarding Afghanistan peace talks,” Faizi told AFP.

‘Islamic Emirate’

The BSA is meant to provide a strategic framework for US troops to remain in the country after its troops formally exit Afghanistan by the end of 2014. It will finalise issues such as the number of troops to remain, where they will be based and under what terms they will operate.

Faizi said that Karzai particularly objected to “the name of the [Taliban’s] office” in the Qatari capital.

“We oppose the title the ‘Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan’ because such a thing doesn’t exist,” Faizi said. “The US was aware of the president’s stance.”

Meanwhile, the Taliban said it would continue to target the US military in Afghanistan, undeterred by US moves to hold direct negotiations with it .

Speaking to Al Jazeera, Zabihullah Mujahid, a Taliban spokesperson, said his group will not change their tactics or objectives.

The Taliban threat rang true as the armed group claimed responsibility for an attack on the Bagram air base, a major hub for US aircraft about 47km north of Kabul, that killed four US soldiers on Tuesday.

‘Two-pronged approach’

Al Jazeera’s Jane Ferguson reporting from the Afghan capital said that the US can still go ahead with talks with the Taliban and without the Afghan government.

“But without the Afghan government there then post-2014 peace is put in jeopardy”, Ferguson said, adding that the long-term strategy was to get both groups to talk.

The US is cautiously optimistic of the Taliban peace talks

The US military presence in Afghanistan is roughly 66,000 troops, after having reached a peak of about 100,000 forces.

US officials cautioned that the peace process would likely be messy and has no guarantee of success.

“It’s going to be a long, hard process if indeed it advances significantly at all,” a senior US official said.

Meanwhile, the NATO command in Kabul on Tuesday completed handing over lead security responsibility to Afghan government forces across the country.

NATO plans to end all combat operations in Afghanistan by December 2014.

Afghanistan suspends talks after US-Taliban move

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-asia-22965046

 

Afghanistan suspends talks after US-Taliban move

Taliban political office in Doha, Qatar. 18 June 2013 The row centres on the new Taliban office, which opened in Qatar’s capital Doha on Tuesday

Afghanistan has suspended talks with the US to discuss the nature of US military presence after foreign troops withdraw in 2014.

A spokesman for President Hamid Karzai said the decision was taken over “contradictions” in the US proposal of direct talks with the Taliban.

Mr Karzai also ruled out talking to the Taliban until the peace process was “Afghan-led”.

Earlier, four US soldiers died in a Taliban attack at an Afghan air base.

A spokesman for the Taliban said the militants had launched two rockets at Bagram airbase, the largest military base for US troops in Afghanistan.

The attack came just hours after the US announced it would open direct talks with the Taliban at their office in the Qatari capital, Doha.

A condition for the talks was for the Taliban to renounce violence. However, US President Barack Obama did not make a ceasefire part of the preliminary negotiations.

Continue reading the main story

Analysis

image of Jonathan Beale Jonathan Beale BBC News, Kabul

President Karzai clearly feels a sense of anger and betrayal over the way the US made that announcement. He thought there would be a commitment from the Taliban to engage with the Afghan government, to recognise the constitution and to renounce violence.

None of those promises were made. Hopes that these talks with the Taliban will go very far must be fading fast. Without the involvement of the Afghan government there is no peace process.

Already tense relations with the US and President Karzai have reached a new low with the suspension of the negotiations of the Bilateral Security Agreement.

On top of that the Taliban have given no indication that the fighting will end – carrying out an attack on the US military base in Bagram within hours of what was supposed to be an “important first step” towards reconciliation.

The BBC’s Jonathan Beale says the Afghan government clearly thinks that US preconditions should have included a commitment to talk to the Afghan government, to acknowledge the constitution of Afghanistan and to renounce violence.

Meanwhile, President Obama said he always expected “friction” at Afghan peace talks.

“My hope is that despite those challenges the process will proceed,” he said during an official visit to Berlin on Wednesday.

“Ultimately we’re going to need to see Afghans talking to Afghans about how they can move forward and end the cycle of violence so they can start actually building their country”.

‘Name and flag’

Afghanistan’s National Security Council confirmed President Karzai had suspended the fourth round of the bilateral security agreement talks.

“There is a contradiction between what the US government says and what it does regarding Afghanistan peace talks,” the president’s spokesman Aimal Faizi said.

He added that the president disagreed with the name given to the new Taliban office opened on Tuesday in the Qatari capital, Doha.

“We oppose the title the ‘Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan’ because such a thing doesn’t exist,” Mr Faizi said.

“The US was aware of the president’s stance.”

Afghan officials said Mr Karzai also objected to the Taliban flag flying over the new premises.

The announcement comes a day after Nato handed over the security for the whole of the country to the Afghan government for the first time since the Taliban were ousted in 2001.

Continue reading the main story

What Afghans think about the Taliban office in Doha

  • MP Shekiba Hashemi: “This is being done without the people of Afghanistan being consulted. It is not only a matter of concern but also a clear violation of the constitution.”
  • Political analyst Kamal Sadat: “We welcome the opening of the Qatar office. It is a step forward in the peace process.”
  • Independent candidate Hasht-e Sobh: “With the opening of an office in Qatar, the Taliban have appeared both in the military and political fields against the Afghan government.”
  • National Front spokesman Faizollah Zaki: “The office cannot play the role of a kind of embassy. The inauguration of the office cannot be at the cost of the legitimacy of the current Afghan government.”

The BBC’s Bilal Sarwary says President Karzai has been reluctant to sign a long-term agreement with the US amid fears it would undermine Afghan sovereignty – and how it might reflect on him during his remaining time in office.

‘Puppets of Washington’

US officials told reporters on Tuesday that the first formal meeting between US and Taliban representatives was expected to take place in Doha on Thursday.

On the same day, President Karzai said he also intended to send delegates of Afghanistan’s High Peace Council (HPC) to Doha to engage in talks with the Taliban in the coming days.

But there are now questions whether the HPC, set up specifically to deal with the Taliban, will still go to Doha, correspondents say.

In the past, the Taliban have always refused to meet President Karzai or his government, dismissing them as puppets of Washington.

Mr Karzai has expressed anger at previous US and Qatari efforts to kick-start the peace process without properly consulting his government, correspondents say.

There is also concern within the presidential palace that the Taliban will use the office in Qatar to raise funds.

The US has previously tried to negotiate with the Taliban, but never held direct talks.

In March 2012 the Taliban said it had suspended preliminary negotiations with Washington, citing US efforts to involve the Afghan government as a key stumbling block.

The Taliban set up a diplomatic presence in Qatar in January 2012 and US officials held preliminary discussions there.

Afghanistan Suspends U.S. Talks

http://www.cfr.org/about/newsletters/archive/newsletter/n1318

Afghanistan suspended security talks (BBC) with Washington that had been aimed at shaping the U.S. military presence in the country after the 2014 drawdown, blaming U.S. inconsistency over the Taliban peace process (al-Jazeera). Washington announced Tuesday that it would engage in direct negotiations with the group, which officially opened a political office in Doha, Qatar, a day earlier. Meanwhile, The Taliban claimed responsibility for the death of four U.S. forces in an overnight attack (al-Arabiya) on Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan on Wednesday. Negotiations on the Bilateral Security Agreement with Kabul began this year and, if completed, will determine how many U.S. bases and soldiers will remain in Afghanistan once NATO ends combat operations.

Analysis

“President Karzai clearly feels a sense of anger and betrayal over the way the U.S. made that announcement. He thought there would be a commitment from the Taliban to engage with the Afghan government, to recognize the constitution and to renounce violence,” writes Jonathan Beale for the BBC.

“The fact that the Taliban will once again be meeting face to face with American negotiators is a positive sign, say experts. But few think this represents a major shift in policy on either the Taliban or the U.S. side,” writes Jean Mackenzie for Global Post.

“The retrograde itself will cost as much as $6 billion and involve about 29,000 personnel, for the American part alone (each of the 50 coalition countries is responsible for its own logistics). The job is unprecedented in complexity; compared with Iraq, the region’s terrain and politics make it a mover’s nightmare,” writes The Economist.