Washington : US President Donald Trump is serious about getting out of Afghanistan, the Taliban told AFP , outlining the “Islamic system” comprising “all Afghans” that the group says it hopes to establish under any peace deal.
Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid spoke to AFP via WhatsApp a day after the US said talks with the militants are “on the right path”, fuelling speculation of a breakthrough in the 17-year conflict.
The US president’s apparent eagerness to pull troops out has weighed on the negotiations, which culminated with six straight days of meetings in Qatar last week.
“An agreement was reached on a principle framework … which, if implemented, and if the Americans take honest steps and stick to it truthfully, then God willing we are hopeful that the Americans will end the occupation of Afghanistan,” Mujahid said.
“It appears that Trump is serious,” the Taliban spokesman continued.
US special envoy Zalmay Khalilzad also spoke this week of a “draft framework” for a deal, though he warned that major hurdles — including any US withdrawal — remain.
Experts have hailed the development as a milestone in the conflict.
But it has prompted concerns from Afghans and observers who feared foreign troops could withdraw before a lasting peace is reached between the insurgents and the government in Kabul.
The Taliban took over Afghanistan in 1996, imposing their brutal interpretation of Shariah law on the country until they were toppled in the US invasion of 2001.
They have since fought an insurgency demanding foreign troops leave and an Islamic state be re-established.
Mujahid said a foreign withdrawal was the first goal.
“Secondly, we want the establishment of an Islamic system,” he continued, dampening tentative hopes among Afghans that the insurgents would agree to participate in the existing democratic system built since 2001.
He said they would establish such a system through “negotiations with different political sides, even if they have so far been under the umbrella of the invaders”.
If the government in Kabul will not stand in the way, he added, “then of course there will be no need for war”. Mujahid said the insurgents are not seeking to monopolise power.
“Inshallah (God willing) all Afghans, including different political sides” can take part, he told AFP.
Such a system would be based on the principle of shura, or council, with Islamic experts making decisions and “representatives of people and scholars” contributing.
Mujahid said the group was “100 per cent hopeful” of establishing such a system.
He admitted that the Taliban regime of the 1990s experienced “a lot of economic, social and security problems” — a key one being how to separate men from women.
Under the Taliban, women were largely confined to their homes, venturing outside only with a male escort and hidden beneath a burqa.
Girls education was banned and women were prohibited from the workplace save in some few areas such as medicine.
Now, the militants “don’t oppose the education of women”, Mujahid said.
“We will try to provide a safe environment for the education and work of women,” he told AFP, adding “whatever is permissible for women in Islamic Sharia will be allowed”.
Many women have spoken to AFP of their fears that a peace deal could come at the cost of the few, hard-won rights they have managed to establish in the deeply patriarchal, conservative country since 2001.
Mujahid said the next round of talks with the US will again take place in Doha starting February 25. The US has said talks will continue, but not confirmed any date.
Khalilzad tweeted late Thursday that both sides had made “significant progress on two vital issues: counter terrorism and troop withdrawal”.
But that “doesn’t mean we’re done”, he continued, adding work continues on both issues as well as a ceasefire and convincing the Taliban to speak to the Afghan government — all issues on which attempts at peace negotiations have foundered in the past.
Pakistan among the few countries to successfully turn tide against terrorism: Imran
Islamabad: Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan said that the country condemned terrorism in all its forms and manifestations, including state-terrorism against people under illegal occupation. The PM stated that Pakistan is “among the few countries to have successfully turned the tide against terrorism”.
Addressing the 19th Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) Summit at Bishkek, the capital of Kyrgyzstan, Khan reiterated that Pakistan is ready to share its experience and expertise in counter-terrorism. He added that growing intolerance and Islamophobia are threatening to accentuate religious fault-lines. He further said that Pakistan will remain actively engaged in SCO’s counter-terrorism initiatives.
Speaking on Afghanistan, PM Khan said that “the conflict in Afghanistan has no military solution”, adding that Pakistan is fully supporting efforts for “peace and reconciliation, through an Afghan-led and Afghan-owned process”.
“Excellencies, The world stands at a crossroads. For the first time in ages, we are seeing the advent of a multi-polar global order. Epicentres of economic power and growth momentum are shifting eastwards. Regional integration is speeding up. Disruptive technologies are maturing. Threats from terrorism to climate change to narcotics to bacterial resistance continue to loom large,” said PM Khan.
“There are increasing barriers to open trade and innovation. Meanwhile, growing intolerance and Islamophobia are threatening to accentuate religious fault-lines. For its part, Pakistan condemns terrorism in all its forms and manifestations, including State-terrorism against people under illegal occupation. We are among the few countries to have successfully turned the tide against terrorism,” added the Pakistan PM.
“Pakistan remains ready to share its experience and expertise in counter-terrorism. We will also remain actively engaged in SCO’s counter-terrorism initiatives. Excellencies, There is finally a realization that the conflict in Afghanistan has no military solution. Pakistan is fully supporting efforts for peace and reconciliation, through an Afghan-led and Afghan-owned process,” further said Pakistan PM Khan.
Earlier in the day, Prime Minister Narendra Modi had reiterated India’s strong stand against terrorism and appealed that countries supporting, aiding and funding terrorism must be held accountable. PM Modi highlighted the spirit and ideals of SCO to strengthen cooperation in the fight against terrorism even as Khan looked on.
Without naming Pakistan, a country that has made state-sponsored terrorism its biggest policy to counter India for the last several decades, PM Modi said every country needs to come together, unite and fight against the scourge.
Putin says Russia will fight for the right of Palestinians to their own state
Moscow: Vladimir Putin has said Russia will fight for an independent Palestinian state, and called for the issues of the Middle East to be resolved through peaceful means.
Despite international criticism over Russia’s own role in the Ukrainian crisis, Mr Putin was hailed last week by a St Petersburg Cossack group for his ability to “bring order and stop wars”.
In an address to the Arab League summit in Egypt on Saturday, Putin spoke against foreign intervention in countries’ internal disputes and spoke of the role Russia can play in diplomatic channels.
While Russia openly opposes the stance of US-backed Israel on the Gaza crisis, its position in the Middle East is complicated. Putin is one of Iran’s key allies, but as he spoke on Saturday the core nations of the Arab League engaged in air strikes on the Iranian-backed Houthi rebels in Yemen.
His attempts to urge a peaceful solution in Yemen haven’t had much of an immediate impact – on Sunday, the Arab League agreed to the creation of a joint military forces comprised of around 40,000 elite troops to resolve the future “challenges” of the Middle East.
As one of the “Quartet” entities involved in Middle East peace negotiations, Russia has played a key role in talks about the fallout of last year’s Gaza crisis.
He told the summit this weekend: “Palestinians have the right to establish an independent and habitable state with a capital in East Jerusalem.
“Russia will continue to contribute to achieving this goal through bilateral and multilateral channels,” he said.
Trump claims Queen had fun with him during his UK visit
Washington: US President Donald Trump claimed that Britain
s Queen Elizabeth II had more fun during his state visit to the UK than in the last 25 years."I have such a great relationship, and we were laughing and having fun. And her people said she hasnt had so much fun in 25 years. Then I got criticized for it because they said we were having too much fun,” the Hill quoted Trump as saying.
Trump`s comments come two weeks after his first state visit to London to meet the 93-year-old monarch. During his three-day visit, the president dined with the Queen, members of the British royal family and other British politicians at Buckingham Palace.
Trump and the queen reaffirmed the importance of the Washington-London relationship during an elaborate state banquet.”On behalf of all Americans I offer a toast to the eternal friendship of our people, the vitality of our nations and to the long cherished and truly remarkable reign of her majesty, the queen,” Trump said in his toast during the event.
He also met Prime Minister Theresa May. Opposing Trump
s visit, thousands of people hit the streets. TheTrump Baby` blimp was flown by the demonstrators outside the Houses of Parliament, according to CNN, alongside a 16-foot robot version of Trump sitting on the toilet and tweeting.
Other activists came dressed as gorillas, with signs reading that they “only eat chlorinated chicken” — a nod to concerns in Britain that a post-Brexit trade deal with the US would mean a decline in food standards for imported produce.
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