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Afghan peace talks: Four nations to draw road map on January 16

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Islamabad: The first round of quadrilateral meeting of Pakistan, Afghanistan, US, and China will take place on January 16 to work out a clear and comprehensive road map for a meaningful Afghan peace process, Pakistani Defense Minister Khawaja Asif said on Thursday.

The efforts to facilitate the Afghan reconciliation were started on the occasion of the “Heart of Asia” Conference in Islamabad on December 9.

Diplomatic efforts will get momentum with the meeting to revive the dialogue process between the Afghan government and the Taliban.

Pakistan earlier brokered the first ever face-to-face talks in early July and the second round was cancelled after the death of the Taliban leader Mullah Omar was revealed in late July.

All stakeholders are now making efforts to end the deadlock in the process that was necessary to stop the Taliban’s Spring Offensive. The Taliban had launched the annual offensive in late March or early April.

Asif told the senate the quadrilateral meeting will clearly demarcate responsibilities of each stakeholder at all stages.

Talking about the Army Chief General Raheel Sharif’s recent visit to Kabul, he said the army chief carried a message to Kabul that the peace process would necessarily be Afghan-led and Afghan-owned.

“It was agreed that they will pursue peace and reconciliation with Taliban groups willing to join the process,” the minister informed the upper house of the parliament.

Elements that would still continue to pursue violence will be dealt, under a mutually worked out framework, he declared.

All eyes are now on the four-nation meeting that was seen very significant to explore ways for the revival of the dialogue process. (IANS)

(Photo: Wikipedia)

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Fighting Has Intensified Across Many Afghan Provinces

The insurgents had tried to capture the city in August but were beaten back by Afghan forces with the help of American special forces and airstrikes. Most of the districts in the province are controlled or contested by the Taliban.

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Afghanistan
Fighting Spikes Across Many Afghan Provinces. VOA

A mortar attack on a school Saturday in the volatile southeastern Ghazni province of Afghanistan killed at least four school students and injured more than a dozen. The assault comes on the heels of the Taliban capturing a strategically important northeastern district in Afghanistan and inflicting fresh casualties on government forces elsewhere in the country.

A provincial government spokesman, Arif Noori, told VOA that two teachers also were among 15 other people injured in the incident. It was not known immediately whether Afghan forces or Taliban rebels fired the mortar shell on the school in the Andar district.

Noori said a government investigation has been launched into the incident.

Afghanistan
A Taliban spokesman claimed responsibility for what he described as an “infiltrator operation” that killed eight pro-government forces and detained another. Pixabay

Fighting has intensified across many Afghan provinces with the advent of spring amid U.S.-led efforts to find a negotiated settlement with the Taliban to end the 18-year-old Afghan war.

Within the past week, about 35 Afghan civilians, including 20 children and six women, have died in conflict-related incidents across the country.

The United Nations has confirmed that almost 90 percent of the casualties were caused by Afghan security forces and U.S. airstrikes. The world body says the armed conflict last year killed more than 3,800 civilians, including 927 children, the highest number of civilian deaths recorded in the past 10 years.

Officials confirmed Saturday that Afghan security forces retreated overnight from the Arghanj Khwa district center in Badakhshan province following fierce clashes with Taliban assailants.

A provincial government spokesman told VOA the fighting killed at least four police personnel. A provincial council member, Tahira Alamyar, said clashes Friday night killed about a dozen Afghan forces. She told VOA Taliban insurgents also captured at least five security forces.

FILE - Afghan border police walk the Afghanistan side of the border with Tajikistan, in Ishkashim, Badakhshan province, far northeastern Afghanistan, Aug. 16, 2016.
Afghan border police walk the Afghanistan side of the border with Tajikistan, in Ishkashim, Badakhshan province, far northeastern Afghanistan, Aug. 16, 2016. VOA

An insurgent spokesman said the Taliban has consolidated its control over the district after overrunning the district police headquarters, seizing several military vehicles and a “huge quantity of weapons-equipment.”

Separately, officials in southern Zabul province confirmed that at least eight police officers were killed Saturday morning at a security outpost in the Shahr-e-Safa district when one of their colleagues with suspected links to the Taliban turned his gun on them.

A provincial police official told VOA on condition of anonymity that the whereabouts of eight other Afghan forces were not immediately known. A provincial police spokesman, Asif Tokhi, confirmed the incident to VOA but would not share further details immediately.

The post is located on the main highway linking the national capital, Kabul, to southern Afghan provinces.

A Taliban spokesman claimed responsibility for what he described as an “infiltrator operation” that killed eight pro-government forces and detained another.

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Afghan officials also confirmed a Thursday night Taliban attack on the provincial capital, Ghazni, killed at least 15 security forces, including a district police chief.

The insurgents had tried to capture the city in August but were beaten back by Afghan forces with the help of American special forces and airstrikes. Most of the districts in the province are controlled or contested by the Taliban. (VOA)