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Revived Attempt At Afghan Peace Talks Between U.S.-Taliban Brings Hope

The Taliban spokesman claimed that besides Baradar's appointment, the Taliban leadership has made “multiple changes” in its military and civilian departments

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Afghanistan
A Taliban fighter sits on his motorcycle adorned with a Taliban flag on a street in Kunduz, Afghanistan. VOA

There are signs of progress in the ongoing peace talks between the United States and the Taliban in Qatar, leading some to think they could set the stage for a politically negotiated settlement to the 17-year-old war in Afghanistan.

The talks opened Monday with the U.S. team led by Washington’s special representative for Afghan reconciliation Zalmay Khalilzad. Pakistani and Qatari envoys also are present.

As the discussions entered a fourth day Thursday, highly placed sources told VOA the two sides have covered “significant” ground in their bid to reach an understanding on the two most difficult issues being negotiated in Doha, the capital of the Gulf state, where the Afghan insurgent group operates its political office.

The Taliban announced at the outset that its representatives would be seeking a timetable for withdrawal of U.S. and NATO-led foreign troops from Afghanistan, while the Taliban side would give assurances that Afghan soil would not be used to threaten the United States or any other country.

USA, Afghanistan, Peace Talks
Former U.S. Ambassador to Afghanistan Zalmay Khalilzad, now the special representative for Afghanistan reconciliation, speaks in Washington, D.C., April 27, 2016. VOA

Sources anticipate the Taliban could announce a temporary cease-fire in the event of progress on its key demand of a foreign troop withdrawal from Afghanistan.

The peace dialogue started last summer and Pakistan reiterated Thursday it has brought the two sides to the table to help find a peaceful end to the increasingly bloody Afghan war. Islamabad insists it has convinced the Taliban to engage in a productive dialogue with the U.S. and the two negotiating teams would be solely responsible for its “success or failure.”

A Foreign Ministry spokesman confirmed Pakistan is represented at the talks but gave no further details about any possible breakthrough.

“Pakistan, as part of its shared responsibility, is facilitating the ongoing round of talks between [the] U.S. and the Taliban in Doha. Negotiations are between the two parties, that is the U.S. and the Taliban. Pakistan and Qatar are providing the necessary support and are facilitating the talks,” Mohammad Faisal noted.

Faisal insisted that “taking the Afghan peace process forward remained a shared responsibility.” He went on to say that “ultimately the intra-Afghan dialogue would be vital to agree upon the contours of a future Afghan policy where Afghanistan becomes a stable and prosperous country and at peace with its neighbors.”

Taliban, Afghanistan
Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar. VOA

It remains unclear whether U.S. negotiators have persuaded Taliban representatives to engage in direct talks with the government. The militants have long opposed recognizing the elected government, insisting it is illegitimate.

Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates also have played their role in influencing the insurgents, and their representatives were present in the last round of U,S.-Taliban talks hosted by Abu Dhabi in December.

Diplomatic sources privy to the current negotiations tell VOA that because the U.S. has already shown willingness to draw down troops from Afghanistan, they believe “the Taliban will also have to concede something for an agreement” to move the process forward. If the Doha dialogue secures “even a limited conditional cease-fire,” the sources say, it would be a major development because it will “practically make a political reconciliation process irreversible.”

New head of Qatar office

Meanwhile, in what some observers call a significant development to win support of military commanders on the ground, the Taliban appointed its co-founder, Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, as the new head of the Qatar political office conducting the meetings with Khalilzad,

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

A spokesman for the insurgent group, Zabihullah Mujahid, announced late Thursday that the induction of Baradar is meant to “strengthen and properly handle the ongoing negotiations” with the American side. Additionally, Baradar will also serve as the deputy political affairs to Taliban chief Hibatullah Akundzada, Mujahid wrote in a statement released to media.

“With the appointment of the esteemed Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, the negotiation team of the Islamic Emirate (the Taliban) will continue their talks with the United States and will not bring about any change,” noted the Taliban spokesman.

Baradar hails from southern Afghanistan and he is still believed to be highly respected among the Taliban. He had been under United Nations financial and travel sanctions since February 2001.

Also Read: Afghan Women Fear Recurring Oppression If Taliban Becomes Part Of The Government

The Taliban spokesman claimed that besides Baradar’s appointment, the Taliban leadership has made “multiple changes” in its military and civilian departments “so that the ongoing jihadi process and political efforts can develop positively.”

Baradar, a former Taliban military commander and close associate of the Islamist group’s founding leader Mullah Omar, had been in Pakistan’s custody for more than eight years before he was set free last October at Washington’s request, hoping his involvement in direct peace talks with the insurgent group would boost the peace process.

The senior Afghan insurgent leader was captured in 2010 in a joint raid by Pakistani and American security operatives against his hideout in Karachi, Pakistan’s largest city. He was the group’s second-in-command at the time of his arrest. (VOA)

Next Story

Pentagon Blocks Commerce Department-Backed Ban on Sales By Tech Giant Huawei

Huawei has not been able to divest itself of American suppliers entirely

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Huawei
The US Department of Commerce had put Huawei on the "entity list" in May 2019, thus, preventing US firms from conducting business with the company unless they obtain a specific license, citing national security concerns with the Chinese telecommunications giant. Wikimedia Commons

In a breather to the Chinese telecom equipment and smartphone giant Huawei, the Pentagon has blocked the Commerce Department-backed ban on sales that make it harder for US-based companies to sell equipment to the handset maker, the media has reported.

The US Department of Commerce had put Huawei on the “entity list” in May 2019, thus, preventing US firms from conducting business with the company unless they obtain a specific license, citing national security concerns with the Chinese telecommunications giant.

The Commerce Department’s efforts to tighten the noose on Huawei Technologies Co. is facing a formidable obstacle: the Pentagon. Commerce officials have withdrawn proposed regulations that would make it harder for US companies to sell to Huawei from their overseas facilities following objections from the Defense Department as well as the Treasury Department, people familiar with the matter said, The Wall Street Journal reported on Friday.

The Commerce Department has subsequently issued temporary licenses to delay that designation, but companies have already begun finding ways to continue selling equipment to Huawei without falling afoul of Commerce penalties.

Meanwhile, Huawei’s latest smartphone Mate 30 Pro, unveiled in September, doesn’t contain American components. The flagship smartphone competes with the likes of Apple’s iPhone 11, which was also unveiled in September.

Huawei
In a breather to the Chinese telecom equipment and smartphone giant Huawei, the Pentagon has blocked the Commerce Department-backed ban on sales that make it harder for US-based companies to sell equipment to the handset maker. Wikimedia Commons

In the wake of the US ban, Huawei is sourcing audio amplifiers from the Netherlands’ NXP rather than Texas-based Cirrus Logic, and relying entirely on its own HiSilicon semiconductor division for Wi-Fi and Bluetooth chips rather than Broadcom. It’s using other firms, like Japan’s Murata and Taiwan’s MediaTek, for other parts previously supplied by US manufacturers, The Verge had reported in December.

However, Huawei has not been able to divest itself of American suppliers entirely.

ALSO READ: Here’s Why Coronavirus May Have Severe Impact on Asia’s Economy

The company said it had been stockpiling components in anticipation of sanctions and separate teardowns revealed that some new devices were still reliant on American parts, the report added. (IANS)