Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 30 May 2020

Afghan army kills 13 Taliban fighters after peace team rejection

The Taliban has rejected an Afghan government negotiation team set up to end the country's 18-year-old conflict

Afghan security officials show a group of suspected militants allegedly accused of planning attacks on government and security forces after their arrest from different areas, in Jalalabad, Afghanistan, 10 March, 2020. EPA
Afghan security officials show a group of suspected militants allegedly accused of planning attacks on government and security forces after their arrest from different areas, in Jalalabad, Afghanistan, 10 March, 2020. EPA

The Afghan military killed at least 13 Taliban fighters on Sunday, a day after the insurgent group rejected an Afghan government team created for talks aimed at ending the country's 18-year conflict.

The army attacked Taliban hideouts in Ghor Province, located in the west of the country, according to a military statement.

It said the air and ground operation was launched in a bid to interrupt plots to attack Afghan forces and their security checkpoints. The militant plan was to capture Shahrak district in Ghor.

No security personnel and civilians were harmed in the raids, the statement added. The Taliban has not commented on the attack

On Friday, the militants attacked several districts of northeastern Badakhshan province, capturing three districts and killing at least 10 Afghan security forces.

Several Taliban fighters were also killed when reinforcements were sent to the area, the defence ministry said.

It comes after the Taliban rejected the Afghan government negotiation team on Saturday.

After months of delays, the government on Friday announced a 21-member team - including five women - to take part in the upcoming talks, a crucial step in bringing the warring parties to the table and getting a floundering, US-led peace process back on track.

But the Taliban in a statement said the government had failed to put forward an "inclusive" team.

"We shall only sit for talks with a negotiation team that conforms with our agreements and is constituted in accordance with the laid out principles," the statement said.

"In order to reach true and lasting peace, the aforementioned team must be agreed upon by all effective Afghan sides," it said, adding that the majority of those involved in the "intra-Afghan" talks had rejected the team, without specifying which parties.

Under a deal signed by the US and the Taliban last month, the insurgents agreed to resume talks with the Afghan government and discuss a possible ceasefire.

In return, the US and foreign partner forces agreed to withdraw from Afghanistan over the next 14 months.

The Taliban had previously refused to meet with the administration of President Ashraf Ghani, calling him an American stooge.

The Kabul government said the negotiating team would be led by former intelligence chief Masoom Stanekzai and include Batur Dostum, whose father Abdul Rashid Dostum - a notorious former warlord - is accused of human rights violations.

It is not clear when or where the "intra-Afghan" talks would start, but the Taliban has not heeded calls for a ceasefire, instead intensifying their attacks across the country.

Updated: March 29, 2020 05:30 PM

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