Taliban say US peace deal in Afghanistan is nearing breaking point
The group said there would be more violence if the US and the Afghan government continue alleged breaches of the deal
The Taliban said their peace deal with the US was nearing a breaking point, accusing Washington of breaches that included drone attacks on civilians, while also chastising the Afghan government for delaying the release of 5,000 Taliban prisoners.
The group said it had limited its attacks against Afghan security forces to rural outposts and had not attacked international forces. The Taliban said these limits on their attacks had not been specifically laid out in the agreement with the US signed in February.
The Taliban’s statement issued on Sunday warned of more violence if the US and the Afghan government continue alleged breaches of the deal.
US military spokesman Col Sonny Leggett denied the Taliban allegation, saying in a tweet that the US forces in Afghanistan have upheld and continue to "uphold the military terms of the US-TB (Taliban) agreement; any assertion otherwise is baseless".
Col Leggett called for the Taliban to reduce violence and said the US military would continue to come to the aid of Afghanistan’s security forces if attacked, in line with the agreement.
Meanwhile, the militants said they had reduced their attacks compared to last year, but that continued breaches would “create an atmosphere of mistrust that will not only damage the agreements, but also force mujaheddin to a similar response and will increase the level of fighting”.
The Taliban have accused the Afghan government of using “indefensible arguments” to explain repeated delays in releasing a promised 5,000 Taliban prisoners in exchange for 1,000 government personnel. The delay has also left Washington frustrated.
In the Afghan capital, President Ashraf Ghani announced his new Cabinet even as he squabbles with his main political challenger over last year’s election results. Mr Ghani’s move came as Afghan mediators — including former president Hamid Karzai — shuttled between the president and his opponent, Abdullah Abdullah, who has also declared himself Afghanistan’s president.
The country’s Independent Election Commission declared Mr Ghani the winner, but Dr Abdullah and the Elections Complaint Commission have charged widespread irregularities.
Attempts to negotiate an end to the political turmoil roiling Kabul have made little progress, frustrating the US and potentially derailing the next stage in the Afghan peace process. Washington has threatened to withhold US$1 billion (Dh3.67bn) in aid this year if Mr Ghani and Dr Abdullah cannot reach a compromise.
The Trump administration wants a quick start to intra-Afghan negotiations, the next step in the peace deal it signed on February 29. Matters looked promising when Mr Ghani announced his negotiating team last week, but Dr Abdullah’s response to it has been lukewarm and the Taliban have rejected it as one-sided.
The US and Nato have already begun to withdraw troops from Afghanistan. A full withdrawal is expected to be completed in 14 months and is tied to Taliban commitments to fight terrorist groups and help in the battle against ISIS.
The withdrawal is not tied to the success of intra-Afghan negotiations, but US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo travelled to Afghanistan last month to try to break the impasse between Mr Ghani and Dr Abdullah. Mr Pompeo left without a solution. Last week, however, he welcomed the fact that the Afghan government had put together a negotiating team and made progress towards prisoner releases.
Updated: April 6, 2020 08:47 AM