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Peace Talks With The U.S. Stalled: Taliban

The war in Afghanistan is America's longest overseas military intervention. It has cost Washington nearly $1 trillion and killed tens of thousands of people.

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U.S. special envoy for peace in Afghanistan, Zalmay Khalilzad, talks with local reporters at the U.S. embassy in Kabul, Afghanistan, Nov. 18, 2018. VOA

The fledgling U.S.-initiated dialogue with the Taliban, aimed at ending the war in Afghanistan, has come to a halt, an insurgent spokesperson said Monday, apparently dealing a blow to renewed hopes for a much-needed Afghan peace.

The disclosure comes as the chief U.S. negotiator, Zalmay Khalilzad, is visiting regional countries, including China, India and Pakistan, to work toward a negotiated political settlement to the 17-year-old conflict.

“The (dialogue) process has halted for now so the venue and the date for a future meeting are not known,” a senior Taliban official privy to the developments confirmed to VOA when asked whether their peace talks with the U.S. are still on track.

The insurgent official, speaking on condition of anonymity, declined to share reasons behind the suspension of negotiations.


Afghanistan, elections, peace
In this Sept. 21, 2014, photo, Afghanistan’s then presidential candidates Abdullah Abdullah (L) and Ashraf Ghani leave after signing a power-sharing deal at the presidential palace in Kabul, Afghanistan. VOA


The U.S. State Department had no immediate response. When contacted Monday, a spokesperson said the department press office is operating on a reduced status due to the partial U.S. government shutdown.

Afghan government primary issue

The Afghan government is currently not participating in the peace talks, but American officials are eager to bring them to the table. It is widely perceived that the current deadlock is primarily over the Taliban’s rejection of the U.S. insistence to speak directly with the Afghan government.

Afghan chief executive Abdullah Abdullah cautioned again Monday that while Kabul welcomes Khalilzad’s ongoing peace efforts, its involvement in talks is key to achieving the objective. “The people of Afghanistan will consider these efforts seriously when they see representatives of the Afghan government and Taliban at the negotiation table,” Abdullah told a weekly meeting of Cabinet ministers in Kabul.

Others involved in the negotiations warn they could fall apart unless both sides show some flexibility. “If not supported by real give and take — even some initial give and take — a doubt may soon set in about the dialogue process itself. This is what we are eager to prevent at all costs. If it happened, a more severe type of stalemate will take over,” warned a diplomat whose country was represented at the meeting in Abu Dhabi.

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U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, left, Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, center, and Afghan Chief Executive Abdullah Abdullah, right, arrive for a meeting at the Gul Khanna in the Presidential Palace in Kabul, Afghanistan, July 9, 2018. VOA


The Taliban maintain the United States is their primary adversary in the conflict and accuse Afghan leaders as well as security forces of being American “puppets.”

Initial signs of tension amid the talks had emerged last week when a Taliban statement alleged the U.S. approach to the dialogue was “non-serious” and “superficial.”

In a Pashto language statement circulated through its social media accounts, the insurgent group asserted that in talks with Taliban envoys, U.S. negotiators were focusing on issues that Afghans themselves have to resolve without foreign interference.

The Taliban also accused Washington of pressuring the group through Islamic countries and leaking details of discussions to the news media for the sake of propaganda. “We cannot agree on any other issues as long as the independence of Afghanistan is in the occupation of foreigners,” the Taliban statement warned.

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Afghanistan President Mohammad Ashraf Ghani. VOA

Nearly a month since last round of talks

The last round of substantial U.S.-Taliban talks occurred on December 17 in Abu Dhabi, the capital of the United Arab Emirates. Pakistan took credit for arranging the two-day meeting several months after U.S. officials directly engaged Taliban political envoys based in Qatar to explore Afghan peace possibilities.

Both Khalilzad and the Taliban described as “productive” their interaction in Abu Dhabi, where representatives of Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and UAE were also in attendance.

The Taliban had announced at the end of the meeting that the negotiating sides agreed to reconvene “after deliberations and consultations by both sides with their respective leaderships.”

Insurgents maintain that their representatives in talks with the U.S. team have focused on seeking a timeline for withdrawal of all foreign troops from Afghanistan and assuring American interlocutors that Afghan soil will never again be used for terrorism against the United States.

Taliban, afghanistan, peace
Taliban fighters are seen in Shindand district, Herat province, Afghanistan, May 27 2016. VOA

Khalilzad in China

Khalilzad visited China on Monday after holding talks with officials in India as part of his current four-nation trip that includes Afghanistan. The Afghan-born U.S. envoy is due to arrive in Islamabad on Tuesday to further his discussions with Pakistani leaders and push his Afghan peace mission, although the latest insurgent assertions have raised doubts about the future of the U.S.-led efforts to end the war in Afghanistan.

Afghanistan was by far the deadliest country in 2018, with nearly as many reported fatalities as Syria and Yemen combined, says the Armed Conflict Location & Event Data Project (ACLED). The non-governmental organization collates and analyzes data on political violence and protests around the world.

Also Read: Engagement With U.S. For Peace Talk On Track: Taliban

The number of reported deaths in Afghanistan stood at 43,574 last year, accounting for 30 percent of all fatalities recorded by ACLED during 2018.

The war in Afghanistan is America’s longest overseas military intervention. It has cost Washington nearly $1 trillion and killed tens of thousands of people. (VOA)

Next Story

Vice President Mike Pence Claims, United States “Will Not Tolerate” Detention of Roberto Marrero of Venezuela

A collapse in world energy prices, corruption and failed socialist policies have destroyed oil-rich Venezuela's economy.

U.S. Vice President Mike Pence speaks to the media at the White House in Washington, Jan. 9, 2019. VOA

U.S. Vice President Mike Pence has said the United States “will not tolerate” the continued detention of Roberto Marrero, chief of staff of Venezuela opposition leader Juan Guaido.

Marrero was arrested Thursday during a pre-dawn raid on his home. Venezuelan Interior Minister Nestor Reverol explained the arrest, saying a “large number of weapons” were found in Marrero’s house.

Pence made the statement in an op-ed piece for the Miami Herald Friday. He warned that the United States would not tolerate Marrero’s detention or intimidation of the Guaido government, which the U.S. recognizes as the legitimate government of Venezuela.

Personal belongings are seen on the floor at the residence of Roberto Marrero, chief of staff to opposition leader Juan Guaido, after he was detained by Venezuelan intelligence agents, according to legislators, in Caracas, Venezuela, March 21, 2019.
Personal belongings are seen on the floor at the residence of Roberto Marrero, chief of staff to opposition leader Juan Guaido, after he was detained by Venezuelan intelligence agents, according to legislators, in Caracas, Venezuela, March 21, 2019. VOA

​Pence also called out Cuba, Russia, and China for supporting the administration of embattled president Nicolas Maduro and profiting from it.

He said Cuba is allowing its military and intelligence services to train, support, and equip Venezuela’s secret police; Russia vetoed a resolution at the United Nations calling for unfettered aid to Venezuela; and China is refusing to grant a visa to economist Ricardo Hausmann to attend the Inter-American Development Bank’s annual meeting, which it is hosting.

Pence called Maduro a “corrupt dictator” and said those nations are holding Venezuela back in its “steady march towards freedom.”

“Nicolas Maduro must go,” he said.

Guaido, head of the National Assembly, has declared himself interim president after disputed elections. The United States and about 50 other countries have recognized him as Venezuela’s legitimate leader. But Maduro has vowed to remain, leaving the two men in a struggle for power.

U.S. citizens detained

Also Friday, the State Department issued a statement of concern for “all U.S. persons” detained in Venezuela. Prison officials reportedly are preventing lawyers and families of detained Americans from seeing or bringing food to the detainees.

Six U.S. citizens, executives of the oil company Citgo, have been in jail since November 2017 for alleged money laundering and embezzlement.

The two U.S. senators from Texas, home to five of the six detainees, say the six are being held in deteriorating conditions. The legislators also say Venezuelan authorities have denied the detainees a trial and contact with the State Department.

Citgo is a U.S.-based refinery and gasoline marketer primarily owned by Venezuela’s state-run oil company, PDVSA.

President Donald Trump has said all options are on the table for Venezuela, but he has not said under what circumstances he might consider using U.S. military force.

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A collapse in world energy prices, corruption and failed socialist policies have destroyed oil-rich Venezuela’s economy.

Food and medicine are scarce, and more than 3 million Venezuelans have fled the country. (VOA)