World Peace Talks to Resume Under Shadow of Targeted Afghan Killings
Op-Ed: Trump was right to bring troops home from Afghanistan. Biden should finish the job
What Trump did right in Afghanistan, Biden can do better — bring home the troops.Today, the war in Afghanistan is approaching 20 years old. U.S. taxpayers have spent nearly a trillion dollars on it (more if you count long-term costs like interest on debt and military healthcare). The Taliban holds or contests about 65% of Afghan territory. At summer’s end, there were about 8,600 U.S. forces on the ground, a figure that is supposed to drop to 2,500 by Inauguration Day. Some of those soldiers were born after the 9/11 attacks happened. Some are fighting the same war their fathers fought.
(Bloomberg) -- Battling a resurgence in violence including a campaign of targeted killings of journalists, Afghanistan’s government is set to resume peace talks with the Taliban Tuesday, with efforts expected to be focused on securing a cease-fire agreement in the dying days of Donald Trump’s presidency.
Since the intra-Afghan talks began in September in the Qatari capital of Doha, where the Taliban have a political office, violence has increased nationwide, including an attack on Kabul University which killed dozens of students and Taliban attempts to capture Lashkar Gah and Kandahar cities in the southern region.
South Koreans Supported Trump's Talks With Kim Jong Un and Hope Biden Continues Them
"Now Koreans expect Joe Biden to continue what Trump started," South Korean researcher Lee Sang Sin, who authored a popular opinion study on issues facing the peninsula. "The Singapore Agreement is still valid and Biden has no reason to ignore it."The Korea Institute for National Unification, a South Korean state-funded think tank based in Seoul, recently published the results of a survey of the country's citizens in the wake of last month's U.S. presidential election, which ultimately saw Biden certified as the next U.S. leader in spite of ongoing protests by Trump.
“The current levels of violence, including targeted killings, is unacceptable,” Zalmay Khalilzad, U.S. special envoy for Afghan reconciliation, said in aafter he arrived in Doha overnight, two weeks before Trump is due to leave office. “Both sides must demonstrate they are acting in the best interest of the Afghan people by making real compromises and negotiating an agreement on a political settlement as soon as possible and an immediate significant reduction in violence/ceasefire.”
Trump has long been determined to withdraw American troops from Afghanistan. Under a deal signed with Taliban in February, the U.S. is seeking to leave the country by May 2021 in exchange for counter-terrorism assurances from the Taliban. The country is planning to reduce its military presence this month by about 2,000 from 4,500 troops, who are providing air support for Afghan forces.
2020 saw an unprecedented spike in homicides from big cities to small towns
FBI data and criminologists point to the largest one-year jump in killings in the United States since record-keeping began. The grim body count isn’t quite over yet, but the data collected so far is stark — a 20.9 percent increase in killings nationwide, in the first nine months of the year, according to the FBI, and even bloodier increases in many major cities, due largely to gun violence.
After a break of almost a month, the second round of the talks “will be lengthier and more important,” said Ahmad Saeedi, a former Afghan diplomat in Pakistan who is now an independent political analyst in Kabul. In addition to the cease-fire, the two sides will also negotiate the structure of a future Afghan government.
“We’ll discuss the most important agenda -- the violence reduction or a comprehensive cease-fire,” according to Ghulam Farooq Majrooh, a member of Afghanistan’s negotiating team. The targeted killings of journalists, civilian activists and others will also be on the agenda, he added.
The Taliban “are interested in establishing an interim government,” Abdul Hafiz Mansour, another member of the Afghan negotiating team, told reporters on Sunday.
However President Ashraf Ghani has repeatedly denied the idea, saying it would reverse the hard-won achievements, including in human rights, made in the past two decades.
Hot spots to watch: What crises could explode in 2021
Tensions that have simmered are threatening to flare up further. With the coronavirus pandemic and the ensuing economic crisis, tensions that have simmered are threatening to flare up further in 2021, especially as humanitarian need skyrockets, governments and aid groups face budget shortfalls, and climate change increasingly forces folks to flee or fight over resources.
Since November, journalists across the country have been targeted by unknown armed militants.
The fifth reporter killed, Bismillah Adil Aimaq, was shot dead in Ghor province on Jan. 1, according to Afghanistan Journalists Center. Elyas Daee from the Afghan branch of U.S.-sponsored Radio Free Europe -- or Radio Azadi -- Rahmatullah Nikzad from Associated Press and Al-Jazeera, and Malala Maiwand, who worked as an anchor for a local TV channel are among the dead. A further two journalists have also died in Kabul of unknown causes.
In an address to the country’s parliament on Monday, Interior Minister Masoud Andarabi, who had been summoned over security failures to thwart the killings, blamed the Taliban for the journalists’ deaths, citing “accurate intelligence evidence and confessions from arrested perpetrators.”
Taliban spokesman, Zabihullah Mujahed, denied the group was responsible for the attacks in emailed statements and a series of tweets.
The head of National Directorate of Security, the country’s intelligence agency, Ahmad Zia Saraj -- who was also summoned to parliament over the violence -- told lawmakers that Taliban insurgents carried out about 18,500 attacks in one year and have no “pure intentions for peace.”
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Why the Taliban agreed to let more girls in Afghanistan go to school .
The Islamist group may be hoping to boost its image. Why would the Taliban — a group known for the systematic destruction of women’s access to education — not only agree to but initiate talks on the provision of education? The Taliban continues to fight the government of Afghanistan, and the armed group’s political goal remains unchanged: To reestablish a strict Islamist system of government, a shift that would probably reverse many of the rights granted to women in the 2004 post-Taliban Constitution.