Rest of Asia

Taleban aim to present written peace plan at talks next month

Filed on July 5, 2021
Armed men who are against Taleban uprising walk at their check post, at the Ghorband District, Parwan Province, Afghanistan. — Reuters

Taleban leaders renewed the long-stalled talks with Afghan government envoys in Qatar’s capital Doha last week.

The Taleban plan to present a written peace proposal to the Afghan government side as soon as next month, a spokesman for the insurgents said even as they make major territorial gains in the breach left by departing foreign forces.

Hundreds of Afghan security force members have fled into neighbouring Tajikistan in the face of Taleban advances since the United States vacated its main Afghan base, centrepiece of US and Nato might for almost two decades in the country, as part of a plan to withdraw all foreign troops by September 11.

While the transfer of Bagram Air Base to the Afghan army added momentum to a Taleban drive to seize control over new districts, Taleban leaders renewed the long-stalled talks with Afghan government envoys in Qatar’s capital Doha last week.

“The peace talks and process will be accelerated in the coming days...and they are expected to enter an important stage, naturally it will be about peace plans,” Taleban spokesperson Zabihullah Mujahid told Reuters on Monday.

“Possibly it will take a month to reach that stage when both sides will share their written peace plan,” he said, adding that the latest round of talks were at a critical juncture.

“Although we (Taleban) have the upper hand on the battlefield, we are very serious about talks and dialogue.”

The upsurge in fighting and the flight of thousands of members of the tattered Afghan security forces have raised grave doubt about the US-backed peace negotiations, which began last year under the then-President Donald Trump’s administration.

Western security officials said insurgent forces have captured more than 100 districts but the Taleban say they have control of more than 200 districts in 34 provinces comprising over half the Central Asian country.

On Sunday, more than 1,000 Afghan security personnel retreated across the northern border into Tajikistan after Taleban advances, the Tajik border guard service said, while dozens of others were captured by the insurgents.

Diplomats overseeing the intra-Afghan talks have repeatedly sought neighbouring Pakistan’s help to convince Taleban leaders to offer a written peace plan even if it took a maximalist line.

Last month the European Union’s special envoy for Afghanistan, Tomas Niklasson, said time was running out and that a written proposal would be a sign of successful Pakistani leverage over the Taleban.

Najia Anwari, spokeswoman for Afghanistan’s Ministry for Peace Affairs, confirmed that intra-Afghan talks had resumed and said its representatives were “very happy” that Taleban envoys were rejecting the process outright.

“It is difficult to anticipate that the Taleban will provide us with their written document of a peace plan in a month but let’s be positive. We hope they present (it) so as to understand what they want,” said Anwari.

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