Germany in push to resurrect talks with Taliban

Afghan forces take position during an attack by gunmen in Kabul on May 8. Various countries are making efforts to find a solution to the Afghan problem. (Reuters)
Updated 26 May 2019
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Germany in push to resurrect talks with Taliban

  • Only the Afghans ‘can decide upon the future of their country’

KABUL, BERLIN: Germany, a leading donor and member of the NATO-led coalition in Afghanistan, has been talking with the Taliban and the Afghan government in an effort to restart peace talks to end 18 years of conflict, officials said.

While the Taliban have been talking with US officials since October about withdrawal of international troops, they have so far refused formal talks with the Western-backed government, which they dismiss as a “puppet” regime.

Berlin’s special representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan, Markus Potzel, has visited Kabul for talks with the Afghan government and met Taliban officials in Doha at least twice this month.

“The current chance for a process toward a more peaceful Afghanistan should not be missed. If the friends of Afghanistan — and Germany is one of them — together can help in this effort, then we should do it,” Potzel said.

“In the end, only the Afghans themselves, including the Taliban, can decide upon the future of their country.”

The chief US negotiator in Afghanistan, Zalmay Khalilzad, in March said that a draft agreement had been reached on a withdrawal of US forces in exchange for a commitment by the Taliban to cut ties with militant groups such as Al-Qaeda.

But there has been no agreement yet on a cease-fire or a start to talks between the Afghan government and the Taliban, both seen as key conditions for a settlement.

An Afghan delegation had been due to meet Taliban officials in the Qatari capital Doha last month to build the basis for possible negotiations, but the meeting was canceled at the last minute after a dispute over the number of participants.

FASTFACT

 

● At least 3,804 Afghan civilians were killed in the war last year. ● 14,000 US troops are still stationed in Afghanistan.

“We realize that US-Taliban talks will gain momentum only if the insurgent leaders start engaging with the Afghan representatives,” a senior German official said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

Sohail Shaheen, a spokesman for the Taliban’s political office in Doha, said that Germany was one among several countries to have offered help to seek a peaceful resolution. 

The EU and Indonesia are among those to have offered help, another Taliban official said, declining to be named.

Discussions were held with Germany about an Afghan-Taliban meeting in Germany but no decision has been made, Shaheen told Reuters.

 

Captives subjected to abuse

Afghan captives held by the Taliban have been subjected to abuse, ill-treatment and actions that may amount to torture, the UN said on Sunday.

The UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan said it interviewed 13 detainees from a group of 53 recently rescued from the Taliban, mainly members of Afghan forces but also civilians and government officials captured by the insurgents.

The group was freed on April 25 when Afghan troops raided a Taliban-run detention facility in the Khas Uruzgan district in southern Uruzgan province.

Most of the captives were held since 2018, with three since 2016, the UNAMA statement said, adding they were kept in poor conditions and subjected to forced labor. It cites the detainees as saying that the Taliban killed some of their captives.

“I am gravely concerned about these serious allegations of ill-treatment, torture and unlawful killing of civilians and security personnel, as well as the deplorable conditions of detention,” said Tadamichi Yamamoto, the head of UNAMA.

The detainees were shackled while in captivity and almost all said they were beaten. The Taliban told them it was punishment for supporting the government, working with the Americans or fighting the insurgents.


Possible far-right link to German politician murder: reports

A portrait of Walter Luebcke, the administrative chief of the western city of Kassel, is on display next to his coffin during a memorial service in Kassel, western Germany on June 13, 2019. (AFP)
Updated 6 min ago
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Possible far-right link to German politician murder: reports

  • Since his death, hundreds of posts from social media accounts tied to right-wing extremists hailed his murder

BERLIN: German authorities said on Sunday they had arrested a man in connection with the murder of a local politician who was vocally pro-migrant, as media reported the suspect could have far-right links.
Police and prosecutors issued a joint statement that they had taken a 45-year-old man into custody Saturday over the shooting death in early June of prominent local politician Walter Luebcke, a member of Chancellor Angela Merkel’s CDU party.
“The arrest came on the basis of DNA evidence and the suspect appeared this afternoon before an investigating judge in Kassel,” the western city where Luebcke was killed, the authorities said.
They declined to comment on a possible motive, saying they would offer further information to the media about the arrest and the investigation’s progress in the coming days.
However the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung daily reported that the suspect “comes from the far-right scene,” without providing further details.
The Bild newspaper, citing unnamed investigators, said the suspect “could belong to the right-wing extremist scene.”
Luebcke was shot in the head at close range on the terrace of his home in Kassel, around 160 kilometers (100 miles) northeast of Frankfurt.
Investigators say it is unclear why the 65-year-old was killed, but a possible political motive has not been ruled out, given he had previously received numerous death threats.
Luebcke, the head of the city administration in Kassel, had spoken out in defense of migrants at the height of Europe’s refugee crisis in 2015, drawing the fury of the far right.
Since his death, hundreds of posts from social media accounts tied to right-wing extremists hailed his murder.