Kabul ‘concerned’ about US-Taliban deal, seeks clarification

Smoke rises from the site of an attack after a massive explosion the night before near the Green Village in Kabul on September 3, 2019. (Wakil Kohsar/AFP)
Updated 04 September 2019

Kabul ‘concerned’ about US-Taliban deal, seeks clarification

  • The prospect of a US-Taliban deal has engendered high anxiety among many Afghans
  • The statement is Kabul’s first such reaction to the prospective deal

KABUL: The Afghan government expressed doubts Wednesday about a prospective deal between the US and the Taliban, saying officials need more information about the risks it poses.
US special envoy Zalmay Khalilzad was in Kabul this week, when he shared with Afghan officials an agreement “in principle” Washington has forged with the Taliban that would lead to a pull-out of American troops.
The prospect of a US-Taliban deal has engendered high anxiety among many Afghans, who feel sidelined from the process, worry the hard-line Islamists will return to power, and see a beaten America selling out their interests in a bid to escape Afghanistan after 18 years of grueling war.
Sediq Sediqqi, Afghan President Ashraf Ghani’s spokesman, said that while the Kabul administration supports any progress in an eventual peace process, it wants to prevent any negative consequences.
Kabul is “concerned, therefore we seek clarification about this document so that we can carefully analyze the risks and potential negative consequences, and prevent any danger it may cause,” Sediqqi said on Twitter.
The statement is Kabul’s first such reaction to the prospective deal, which Khalilzad presented on Monday.
Ghani and his government have until now been largely sidelined in negotiations between the US and the Taliban, who see Ghani as illegitimate and have insisted on dealing first with the Americans.
Kabul’s concerns build on a position expressed Tuesday by former US ambassadors to Afghanistan, who warned in a joint statement against a major troop withdrawal without a comprehensive peace accord.
“A major withdrawal of US forces should follow, not come in advance, of (a) real peace agreement,” the former envoys wrote.
According to parts of the deal made public so far, the Pentagon would pull thousands of its 13,000 or so troops from five bases across Afghanistan by early next year, provided the Taliban hew to their security pledges.
The insurgents have said they will renounce Al-Qaeda, fight the Daesh group and stop militants using Afghanistan as a safe haven.
Ultimately, though, Kabul has no say on whether the US and the Taliban make a deal, and can only hope the insurgents honor a pledge to sit down with the Afghan government to build a separate accord.


India celebrates Republic Day with military parade

Updated 26 January 2020

India celebrates Republic Day with military parade

  • Schoolchildren, folk dancers, and police and military battalions marched through New Delhi’s parade route

NEW DELHI: Thousands of Indians converged on a ceremonial boulevard in the capital amid tight security to celebrate the Republic Day on Sunday, which marks the 1950 anniversary of the country’s democratic constitution.
During the celebrations, schoolchildren, folk dancers, and police and military battalions marched through New Delhi’s parade route, followed by a military hardware display.
Beyond the show of military power, the parade also included ornate floats highlighting India’s cultural diversity as men, women and children in colorful dresses performed traditional dances, drawing applause from the spectators.
The 90-minute event, broadcast live, was watched by millions of Indians on their television sets across the country.
Brazilian President Jair Messias Bolsonaro was the chief guest for this year’s celebrations.
He was accorded the ceremonial Guard of Honor by President Ram Nath Kovind and Prime Minister Narendra Modi at Rashtrapati Bhawan, the sprawling presidential palace.
Bolsonaro joined the two Indian leaders as the military parade marched through a central avenue near the Presidential Palace.
At the parade, Bolsonaro watched keenly as mechanized columns of Indian tanks, rocket launchers, locally made nuclear-capable missile systems and other hardware rolled down the parade route and air force jets sped by overhead.
Apart from attending the Republic Day celebrations, Bolsonaro’s visit was also aimed at strengthening trade and investment ties across a range of fields between the two countries.
On Saturday, Modi and Bolsonaro reached an agreement to promote investment in each other’s country.
Before the parade, Modi paid homage to fallen soldiers at the newly built National War Memorial in New Delhi as the national capital was put under tight security cover.
Smaller parades were also held in the state capitals.
Police said five grenades were lobbed in the eastern Assam state by separatist militants who have routinely boycotted the Republic Day celebrations. No one was injured, police said.
Sunday’s blasts also come at a time when Assam has been witnessing continuous protests against the new citizenship law that have spread to many Indian states.
The law approved in December provides a fast-track to naturalization for persecuted religious minorities from some neighboring Islamic countries, but excludes Muslims.
Nationwide protests have brought tens of thousands of people from different faiths and backgrounds together, in part because the law is seen by critics as part of a larger threat to the secular fabric of Indian society.