KABUL, Afghanistan – The country’s international allies hailed launch of the long-awaited intra-Afghan Talks on peace and solidarity in Afghanistan, encouraging to seize the “historic moment” for a peaceful Afghanistan and region.
United States President Donald Trump said Thursday that Secretary of State Mike Pompeo will head to Doha later in the day to attend the intra-Afghan negotiations.
“I can announce, with great pride, that Secretary of State Mike Pompeo will be departing this evening on a historic trip to Doha, Qatar, for the beginning of intra-Afghan peace negotiations,” he said at a press conference at the White House as quoted by a local media.
As part of agreement with the Taliban, Trump exclaimed he will pull his troops out of Afghanistan, bringing the number to 4,000 soldiers still in the country.
“A lot of progress is being made in Afghanistan. But we’ll be down to 4,000 soldiers in a very short period of time,” he said.
Meanwhile, the US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo welcomed the upcoming talks between the Taliban and Afghan government, adding “This is an historic moment and Afghanistan’s best chance at ending forty years of war and bloodshed.”
The US Special Representative for Afghanistan Reconciliation Zalmay Khalilzad said in a tweet Thursday the long-fought war in Afghanistan has no “military solution” and only talks can bring about peace and solidarity.
“The road to get here has been long and will remain difficult. No important achievement is ever easy,” he said. “It is now the responsibility of Afghan leaders to capitalize on this moment and end this brutal and mindless war.”
“There is no political settlement without compromise,” he further said. Recent Afghan history shows that seeking a monopoly of power and enforcing one’s ideology by force leads to conflict and makes the country vulnerable to interference by others.
NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg welcomed the announcement on the start of the talks, saying “all parties should seize this historic opportunity and build on the gains made with so much sacrifice.” NATO remains committed to Afghanistan’s long-term security.
[Earlier: Intra-Afghan Talks to Mark First Meeting Saturday]
Mohammad Naeen Wardar, a spokesman for the Taliban delegation, in a tweet Thursday said an opening meeting of the Intra-Afghan talks is due to September 12 in Qatari capital Doha.
“The State of Qatar is pleased to announce that the Afghanistan Peace Negotiations will commence in Doha on Saturday the 12th of September 2020…,” the Qatari government confirmed on a statement later that day. “These vitally important direct negotiations between the different Afghan parties represent a step forward in bringing lasting peace to Afghanistan…”
“Qatar has always placed great value in the power of diplomacy and direct dialogue to resolve disputes,” said the Minister of Foreign Affairs’ Special Envoy for Counterterrorism and Mediation in Conflict Resolution Mutlaq Al Qahtani as quoted on the statement. “We will continue our role to create stability in the region.”
Meanwhile, the Afghan Presidential Palace said on a statement Thursday evening that its delegation will leave for Doha on Friday to attend initial meeting of the long-awaited talks.
According to the statement, Abdullah Abdullah, chairman of the High Council for National Reconciliation; Mohammad Haneef Atmar, Acting Foreign Minister; Abdul Salam Rahimi, the President’s special representative for peace and Syed Sadat Mansoor Naderi, State Minister for Peace Affairs will represent the Afghan government.
The announcement came after a breakthrough on the deadlock for implementing Intra-Afghan talks, as the Taliban officials met their demands of having their prisoners freed by Afghan government.
Sources suggested at least six “hardcore” Taliban prisoners are yet be freed due to objections by the Australian and French government for their involvement of killing international counterparts.
The six “hardcore” Taliban – who have direct links to killing foreign nationals – are transferred from Kabul prison to Doha on Thursday, in a bid to have a closer eye on them. Their fate, however, remained uncertain.