Political turmoil in Kabul dogs negotiations with Taliban
Kabul: After months of deliberation, Afghan President Ashraf Ghani on Friday announced his 21-member team to negotiate peace with the Taliban, only to have his political opponent reject it as not inclusive enough.
Afghanistan’s political turmoil has impeded each tentative step toward negotiations with the Taliban negotiations that are supposed to come next under a peace deal that Washington signed with the insurgents last month.
The deal calls for the eventual withdrawal of all 13,000 US soldiers from Afghanistan in exchange for guarantees from the Taliban to fight other militant groups, including the Islamic State group.
The deal has been touted as Afghanistan’s best chance yet of ending its relentless wars.
But Ghani and his opponent, Abdullah Abdullah, have been locked in a power struggle that US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo could not resolve during his emergency visit to Kabul earlier this week.
Pompeo held talks with both Ghani and Abdullah, who has also declared himself president in a parallel inauguration ceremony earlier this month, but made no headway in reconciling the two.
Washington subsequently said it would cut USD 1 billion in assistance to Afghanistan if the two leaders couldn’t get their act together.
Ghani’s 21-member team is led by the Masoom Stanikzai, former head of Afghanistan’s intelligence agency, who was forced to resign last year.
He quit after a CIA-trained team under his command was found to have killed four brothers they falsely accused of being Islamic State operatives.
The special forces unit known as Unit 02 still operates despite reports of abuses, including one last year by the Human Rights Watch, which documented what it says are mounting atrocities by US-backed Afghan special forces.
Abdullah seeks a power-sharing deal with Ghani, something the Afghan president has so far rejected.
Abdullah accuses Ghani of being unwilling to compromise while Ghani says his rival’s power-sharing demands will require a constitutional change and that can come only by holding a loya jirga, or grand council, of all Afghans.
In a televised speech a day after Pompeo’s visit, Ghani dismissed the threat of funding cuts and claimed that Afghanistan can manage without the USD 1 billion in US aid.
Despite 18 years and billions of dollars in international aid, Afghanistan remains desperately poor.
The poverty level soared from 35 Per Cent of the population in 2012 to more than 55 Per Cent last year.
Poverty level counts those who survive on usd 1 or less a day. Successive Afghan governments, including Ghani’s, have been accused by international watchdogs of widespread corruption.(AP)