Kabul : The Taliban discussed Afghanistan’s “post-occupation situation” with Iran in their latest meeting, the group said , as Tehran makes a more concerted and open push for peace ahead of a possible US drawdown.
The remarks come after Iran confirmed on Monday that the Taliban had visited Tehran for a second round of talks in just a few days that are aimed at ending the 17-year conflict.
The Taliban delegation discussed with Iran “the post-occupation situation, restoration of peace and security in Afghanistan and the region”, the militants said in a statement posted on social media and emailed to journalists.
It signals a growing confidence among the Taliban for US troops to pull out of Afghanistan, after US officials last month told various media outlets that President Donald Trump had decided to slash the number of boots on the ground.
There have been reports in the past of talks between Iran and the Taliban, but they have typically been denied by Tehran.
Tehran’s peace push will be viewed with concern by hawks in Washington, who fear that Trump’s planned withdrawal of troops from Syria and Afghanistan will cede regional influence to Iran.
The Taliban also met with the United States, Pakistan and Saudi Arabia in the United Arab Emirates earlier in December as part of a flurry of diplomatic efforts to end the war.
But the Taliban refused to meet a delegation from Afghanistan. The group said on Saturday its representatives would not meet “with those of the Kabul administration” at the next meeting expected to be held in Saudi Arabia later this month.
Iran’s deputy foreign minister Abbas Araghchi will travel to Afghanistan in the next two weeks, the foreign ministry said, without giving further details.
Iran and Afghanistan share a nearly 960-kilometre border, and have had a complex relationship in recent years.
Tehran has long supported its co-religionists in Afghanistan, the Shia Hazara minority, who were violently persecuted by the Taliban during its rule in the 1990s.
Iran worked alongside the US and Western powers to help drive out the Taliban after the US-led invasion in 2001.
But there have been allegations, from Western and Afghan sources, that Iran’s Revolutionary Guards have in recent years established ties with the Taliban aimed at driving out US forces from Afghanistan.
Peace talks with Taliban will happen soon: US
KABUL: The US special envoy for peace in Afghanistan said talks with the Taliban will “happen very soon” but if the insurgents continue to fight, then American forces would support Afghan forces in the war.
Talks between the Taliban and American officials have hit a roadblock after the hardline militants cancelled the fourth round of peace talks last week and rejected the involvement of the Afghan government in the dialogue.
The Taliban threatened to pull out of the peace process with the United States if they diverted from the issue of foreign force withdrawal from Afghanistan, a key demand of the insurgents to end the 17-year war.
The Taliban’s warning came hours after Zalmay Khalilzad landed in Afghanistan after meeting officials from India, China and the United Arab Emirates to discuss the peace process. “If the Taliban want to talk, we can talk. If they want to fight, we can fight,” Khalilzad told journalists in Kabul.
The White House has said President Donald Trump had not issued orders to the Pentagon to withdraw troops from Afghanistan, but the White House has not denied reports that the United States plans to pull out some of the 14,000-strong force currently deployed.
Khalilzad said: “We hope that they [Taliban] want to make peace. But if they do not choose to come to the table, if they choose to continue fighting, the United States will stand with the Afghan people and the Afghan government and support them.”
Speaking about the next date for a meeting with the Taliban, he said: “We are hopeful it will happen very soon. That’s what we’re working towards.” “What we want is to see this conflict end through negotiation, to continue our partnership with Afghanistan and to ensure no terrorist threatens either of us,” Khalilzad told reporters.
UN approves mission to shore up Yemen truce
UNITED NATIONS: The United Nations Security Council unanimously approved the deployment to Yemen of up to 75 monitors in a new mission to shore up a fragile ceasefire and oversee a pullback of forces from the flashpoint port of Hodeida.
The observer mission was agreed during talks last month in Sweden between the Saudi-backed government and Houthi rebels and an advance team is already on the ground in the rebel-held city.
The unarmed monitors will be sent to Hodeida city and port as well as to the ports of Saleef and Ras Issa for an initial period of six months.
The resolution calls on UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres to “expeditiously” deploy the United Nations Mission to support the Hodeida Agreement (UNMHA), led by retired Dutch General Patrick Cammaert.
Guterres has described the mission as a “nimble presence” that will report on violations in Hodeida, which for months was the front line in the war after pro-government forces launched an offensive to capture it in June.
Human Rights Watch warned of a tough road ahead and urged the council to keep the pressure on the warring sides.
“The countdown for exchanging prisoners is fast approaching, but the parties have missed deadlines, putting the prisoner swap in jeopardy,” said Louis Charbonneau, HRW’s UN director.
Lift travel ban on opposition leaders: Pak SC asks Imran Khan govt
Islamabad: Pakistan’s Supreme Court Thursday ordered the government led by Prime Minister Imran Khan to lift the travel ban imposed on opposition leader Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari and the Sindh Chief Minister, and asked the country’s anti-corruption body to probe their involvement in Rs 35 billion ‘fake accounts case’.
As many as 172 suspects were placed on the Exit Control List (ECL) on the recommendations of a Joint Investigation Team (JIT) formed by the apex court.
A person cannot fly abroad if his name is placed on the ECL.
The Supreme Court, in a detailed judgement, ordered the government to remove the names of opposition Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) chairman Bilawal and Sindh Chief Minister Murad Ali Shah from the ECL.
It, however, referred the report and material collected by the JIT in the Rs 35 billion ‘fake accounts case’ to the National Accountability Bureau (NAB), Dawn news reported.
The JIT probe focused on “32 fake accounts” which were allegedly used to give massive financial benefits to former president Asif Ali Zardari, his sister Faryal Talpur and several others.
“Removing of the names will not prevent (the) NAB to probe and in case sufficient material is found connecting these individuals with cognisable offences, it will not be precluded from making an appropriate request to the federal government to place their names on (the) ECL again or take any appropriate action provided by law,” according to the judgement authored by Justice Ijaz-ul-Ahsan.
The apex court in its earlier instructions asked the government to delete names of Bilawal and Shah from the ECL but the Cabinet waited for the detailed judgment.
After the judgement, Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry said the government will decide whether it should implement the court orders or file a review petition.
Justice Ahsan was part of the three-judge bench that last year took a suo-motu cognisance after it emerged that several big names were involved in money laundering through fake accounts.
Currently, a Karachi court is hearing the case against Zardari and Talpur for alleged money laundering.