US presents warring Afghan sides with draft peace agreement

| | Kabu
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US presents warring Afghan sides with draft peace agreement

Wednesday, 10 March 2021 | AP | Kabu

Frustrated by a stalled peace process and escalating violence, the US has presented an eight-page draft peace agreement to Afghanistan’s warring sides for review.

The US told the parties to come to Turkey in the coming weeks ready to move on it, according to Afghans on both sides of the table.

The draft was obtained by The Associated Press on Monday. The document outlines the terms of a cease-fire and its enforcement, calls for the protection of the rights of women, children and minorities and envisions a truth and reconciliation commission aimed at healing 42 years of conflict.

US State Department spokesman Ned Price would not confirm the draft, saying “It’s often important for our diplomatic efforts that we’re able to conduct them in private.”

The Taliban received the draft and were reviewing it, said spokesman Mohammad Naeem.

There was no immediate comment from Afghan President Ashraf Ghani on the draft proposal or a sternly worded letter from US Secretary of State Antony Blinken.

In the letter, Blinken said Washington wanted to see progress on peace talks and mentioned the draft peace agreement, which calls for a new, inclusive government — which Ghani has resisted. In recent speeches, Ghani has said no interim government would be formed “as long as I am alive.” But Blinken was uncompromising in his letter, which was released by Afghanistan’s TOLO TV. “I am making this clear to you so that you understand the urgency of my tone regarding collective work,” he wrote.

In the letter, Blinken said a May 1 deadline for a final withdrawal of US troops — stipulated in a Taliban-US deal last year — is still on the table. Even with America’s $4 billion in aid to Afghanistan’s National Security Forces, a US withdrawal could mean quick territorial gains for the Taliban.

Ghani’s first vice president, Amrullah Saleh, said the president had received the letter and was unmoved by its contents. He said Ghani was not ready to embrace the secretary of state’s accelerated pace toward a settlement.

“We are neither concerned about the letter nor has it changed our position,” Saleh said. He thanked the US for its sacrifices and financial assistance over the past 20 years but said the Afghan government won’t succumb to dictation.

“We will make peace with dignity, but never... an imposed peace,” he said at a ceremony on the anniversary of the death of a former defense minister. Ghani has been accused by his political opponents of trying to cling to power at all cost.

Fawzia Koofi, one of only four women at the negotiation table in Doha, warned against haste and a May 1 withdrawal of US troops, saying it would cause chaos. She confirmed that all sides had received the US-crafted draft agreement.                

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