Tribune News Service
New Delhi, August 14
The US handed over a peace proposal to Taliban and Afghan Government representatives as fierce fighting raged in eastern and northern Afghanistan in the battle for the two large cities of Mazar-e-Sharif and Jalalabad. The Taliban were also 11 km away from Kabul after capturing a next-door province.
US Special Representative for Afghanistan Zalmay Khalilzad said the US had prepared the nine point scheme after consulting with China, Pakistan, the EU, the UK, Uzbekistan and Qatar.
The proposal calls for speeding up the peace process, reaching a political deal, permanent ceasefire, stop attacking cities, Joint government and a mechanism for power transferring. Russian Special Envoy on Afghanistan Zamir Kabulov has also spoken on similar lines.
Afghanistan President Ashraf Ghani, met politicians, including those not aligned with him or the Taliban shortly thereafter, and decided to form an authorised delegation for peace talks as soon as possible. The Taliban has not responded so far.
Ghani also announced an allocation to provide free meals to the thousands of Afghans who have entered cities under Government control for refuge.
The UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres called on the Taliban to immediately halt its offensive and said seizing power through military force is a “losing proposition” with the situation already showing signs of “spinning out of control.’’ This is a message being conveyed by a large section of the international community but to little effect.
Fighting raged in Nangarhar and Balkh Provinces as the Taliban attempted to take over their provincial capitals Jalalabad and Mazar-e-Sharif. The Afghan forces also conducted air attacks in Nangarhar that reportedly destroyed Taliban dumps and motorcycles. The Taliban were also attacking the security belt at the entrance of Mazar-e-Sharif city.
In Mazar, a joint meeting of Abdul Rashid Dostum and Atta Mohammad Noor was held which vowed to protect it from the Taliban attacks.
Meanwhile, Taliban spokespersons have made themselves available to Indian media to convey that New Delhi’s military support to the Afghan government is not acceptable. The Taliban also cautioned India against considering a military presence in Afghanistan as “they have seen the fate of military presence in of other countries, so it is an open book for them.’’
“India took sides in an internal matter, aiding one side to kill another section of Afghans. This is not the type of relationship we want,” they said. But Taliban Spokesperson Suhail Shaheen and Zabihullah Mujahid appreciated India’s help in national projects and said embassies and diplomats will not be harmed.
However, Germany on Saturday had a skeletal staff left while Norway and Denmark evacuated their diplomats. The US is in the process of deploying a huge military force to extricate its diplomats and contractors although the Taliban has promised not to harm them.
The Russian embassy however said it was not getting ready for evacuation. “Such a possibility is not being considered,” it said.
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