US envoy in Qatar to press Taliban terrorist group for end to offensive
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A US peace envoy was back in Qatar on Tuesday to warn the Taliban not to pursue a military victory on the ground.
The US State Department said Zalmay Khalilzad, the US envoy, was in Doha, Qatar, where the Taliban maintain a political office, to “help formulate a joint international response to the rapidly deteriorating situation in Afghanistan”.
Al Jazeera’s Mohammed Jamjoom, reporting from Doha, on Tuesday said the talks started with the participation of envoys and diplomats from the US, the UK, the EU, the UN, China, Pakistan and Uzbekistan.
“Those who have not yet shown up here are the diplomats from Russia. They are expected later today, but it is unclear when,” he said.
“We have also spotted the delegation for the Afghan government which includes Dr Abdullah Abdullah. He is the chairman for Afghanistan’s high council for national reconciliation.”
He also said it was “less clear at this hour what role exactly the Taliban will have. They have representatives here in Doha. We’ve not been able to reach them in the last few hours. The spokespeople for the Taliban said earlier this morning they were unclear yet if they were going to be invited”.
“The diplomats told us they want to find a way to come up with some kind of joint international plan to get things back on track when it comes to the intra-Afghan peace process and dialogue,” he said.
“They also want to come up with some type of joint response to the rapidly deteriorating situation in Afghanistan.”
The development comes amid a weekslong, relentless Taliban offensive as the US and NATO forces finalise their pullout from war-torn Afghanistan.
The Taliban fighters have captured five out of 34 provincial capitals in the country in less than a week.
They are now battling the Western-backed government for control of three others, including the city of Lashkar Gah, the capital of southern Helmand province, and the city of Kandahar, the capital in neighbouring Kandahar province.
The group’s sweep comes despite condemnations by the international community and the Taliban’s refusal to return to the negotiating table.
Khalilzad, the US envoy, would “press the Taliban to stop their military offensive and to negotiate a political settlement, which is the only path to stability and development in Afghanistan”, the State Department said.
Meanwhile, the Taliban military chief released an audio message to his fighters on Tuesday, ordering them not to harm Afghan forces and government officials in territories they conquer. The recording was shared on Twitter by the Taliban spokesman in Doha, Mohammad Naim.
In the nearly five-minute audio, Mohammad Yaqoob, the son of late Taliban leader Mullah Mohammad Omar, also tells the rebels to stay out of abandoned homes of government and security officials who have fled, leave marketplaces open and protect places of business, including banks.
It was not immediately clear if Taliban fighters on the ground would heed Yaqoob’s instructions.
On Monday, the Taliban announced that it had captured a sixth provincial capital in Afghanistan in four days.
The armed group’s spokesman claimed it had overrun Aybak, the capital of the northern province of Samangan.
Source: Al Jazeera