Taliban wants to submit new peace proposal to Afghan government

Taliban wants to submit new peace proposal to Afghan government

The Taliban plans to submit a written peace proposal to the Afghan government next month, a Taliban spokesman said, as the group makes major territorial gains amid the ongoing foreign troop withdrawal.

Thousands of members of the Afghan security forces have fled to neighboring Tajikistan as the Taliban advanced after the United States vacated its main base in Afghanistan, during nearly two decades in the country. US-led foreign forces withdrew from Bagram air base as part of a plan to withdraw all foreign troops by September 11.

As the Afghan army took control of Bagram Air Base, the Taliban seized control of new districts and Taliban leaders renewed long-stalled talks with Afghan government envoys in the Qatari capital, Doha, last week.

"The talks and the peace process will be accelerated in the coming days ... and they are expected to enter an important stage, of course on the peace plan," Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said Monday, quoted by Reuters, July 7, 2021.

"It will probably take a month to reach that stage when both sides will share their written peace plans," he said, adding that the latest round of talks was at a critical juncture.

"Even though we (Taliban) have the upper hand on the battlefield, we are very serious about talks and dialogue."

The escalating fighting and the thousands of fleeing members of the Afghan security forces have cast grave doubts on the US-backed peace negotiations, which began last year under then President Donald Trump's administration.

Responding to a request for comment on the statement by a Taliban representative, a US State Department spokesman said a negotiated settlement was the only way to end 40 years of war in Afghanistan.

"We urge both sides to engage in serious negotiations to define a political roadmap for Afghanistan's future that leads to a just and durable settlement," the official said.

"The world will not accept government coercion in Afghanistan," the official added. "Legacy and assistance to any Afghan government can only be possible if that government has a fundamental respect for human rights."

Western security officials say insurgent forces have captured more than 100 districts, but the Taliban say they control more than 200 districts in 34 provinces that cover more than half of the country.

On Sunday, more than 1,000 Afghan security personnel withdrew across the northern border into Tajikistan after the Taliban advanced, the Tajikistan border guard service said, while dozens more were captured by Taliban militants.

Diplomats overseeing intra-Afghan talks have repeatedly sought the help of neighbor Pakistan to convince Taliban leaders to offer a written peace plan even if the Taliban demands more, such as the restoration of hardline Islamist rule reminiscent of the group's 1996-2001 rule.

Last month the EU's special envoy to Afghanistan, Tomas Niklasson, said time was running out and that a written proposal would be a sign of Pakistan's successful influence over the Taliban.

Najia Anwari, spokeswoman for Afghanistan's Ministry of Peace Affairs, confirmed that intra-Afghan talks had resumed and said her representatives were "very pleased" that the Taliban envoy had outright rejected the process.

"It's hard to anticipate that the Taliban will give us a written document on the peace plan in a month, but let's be positive. We hope they attend so they understand what they want," Anwari said.

Last month, the head of Afghanistan's official peace council called for long stalled talks on resolving the violence not to be abandoned despite increased Taliban attacks, unless the insurgents withdraw.

Last week US troops vacated Bagram Air Base as part of an agreement with the Taliban, whom they have opposed since ousting the radical Islamist movement from power following the September 11, 2001 al Qaeda attacks on the United States.

The US military said on Tuesday it had completed more than 90 percent of its troop withdrawal from Afghanistan.

In a statement, US Central Command said that the United States had formally handed over seven facilities to Afghanistan's defense ministry.

Bagram Air Base is the center of US military operations in Afghanistan to fight Taliban insurgents in the north.