Despite talks suspension with Taliban, Khalilzad back in Qatar

In this file photo, US Special Representative for Afghanistan Reconciliation Zalmay Khalilzad attends the Intra Afghan Dialogue talks in Doha on July 8, 2019. (AFP)
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Updated 15 December 2019

Despite talks suspension with Taliban, Khalilzad back in Qatar

  • Bagram attack was in retaliation to night raids and attacks by US and allies: Taliban spokesman
  • Khalilzad met with FM Qureshi and army chief while in Pakistan and welcomed Islamabad’s support in Afghan peace process

ISLAMABAD: US Special Envoy Zalmay Khalilzad arrived in Qatar on Saturday, after a brief visit to Pakistan a day earlier, an American official said. 
On Wednesday, days after US and Taliban negotiators sat down to revive peace talks for the first time since September, Taliban militants attacked the main US military base north of Kabul at Bagram, killing two and injuring at least 73 people. On Friday, both sides announced a pause in talks, with Khalilzad flying out to Pakistan almost immediately.
But the official declined to comment on whether the US envoy would resume talks with the insurgent group now that he had returned to Qatar.
Earlier on Friday, Khalilzad had expressed outrage over the Bagram attack on Twitter and said:
“Taliban must show they are willing & able to respond to Afghan desire for peace. We’re taking a brief pause for them to consult their leadership on this essential topic,” he tweeted.
But Taliban political spokesman Suhail Shaheen said the attack was in retaliation to night raids and attacks by the US and its allies. 
“They (American side) raised the Bagram attack and we also mentioned aerial strikes, night raids and drone attacks by the US and its allies that kill our innocent Afghans,” Shaheen told Arab News on Friday.
“We had called for a pause in the talks as we want to consult our leaders and take their advice,” he said.
“I understand that the people have criticism as to why Taliban carry out attacks during the negotiations. But the people do not know that most of the attacks are in reaction to their (foreign forces) attacks and raids,” Shaheen continued.
Despite US calls for a reduction in violence, there has so far been no let-up in Taliban attacks and Afghan officials said on Saturday that Taliban infiltrators killed 23 Afghan security personnel in Ghazni province on Friday.
During his brief Pakistan visit, Khalilzad held meetings with Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi, army chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa, and other government officials and welcomed Pakistan’s support and facilitation in the Afghan peace process, the US embassy said in a statement late Friday.
“He (Khalilzad) welcomed Pakistan’s support for a reduction in violence, cease-fire, and a successful conclusion of intra-Afghan negotiations as well as regional support for these goals. He also underscored the economic and security benefits peace can bring to the region,” the statement said.


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Updated 12 min 27 sec ago

Philippines confirms 4,226 new coronavirus cases, 41 more deaths

  • Philippines, with a population of 107 million, leads Southeast Asian nations in the most number of cases

MANILA: The Philippines’ health ministry on Saturday reported 4,226 new coronavirus infections and 41 additional deaths.
In a bulletin, the ministry said total confirmed infections have risen to 126,885 while deaths have reached 2,209, with bulk of cases and casualties reported in the capital.
The Philippines, with a population of 107 million, leads Southeast Asian nations in the most number of cases and is second to Indonesia in deaths.