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Khalilzad calls for Afghan ceasefire ahead of peace talks

By Farhad Naibkhel

KABUL: In the wake of ongoing peace push where Afghan politicians will fly to Qatar on Thursday for second intra-Afghan talks with Taliban negotiation members, U.S. Special Envoy for Afghanistan Reconciliation Zalmay Khalilzad has reiterated call for ceasefire where it is only quickest way to prevent casualties that could also help the ongoing peace process to be succeed.

The echo has come days after the Taliban group announced its “spring offensive” with already engaged in fresh fight against Afghan security forces in different parts of the country with casualties on both sides.

However, Khalilzad believes the quickest way to prevent casualties is to agree to a ceasefire. “Taliban senior leadership should allow their representatives to come to the table and discuss. I will continue to press the case,” Khalilzad said in a tweet on Monday.

He said that Afghan people deserve and want a comprehensive ceasefire and negotiations leading to a lasting peace. “The US stands with them.”

“We did not impose this war. Afghanistan has been at war for decades, at times with each other. Tens of thousands of innocent civilians have died. Rather than another season of fighting, Afghans are demanding a new way forward,” he added.

According to him, the US entered peace talks because more war is not the answer. “During talks I’ve proposed ways to reduce violence. By refusing to work with us to end the killing, the Taliban’s are prolonging it. “Let Afghan people judge whether Taliban statements encouraging more violence is way forward.”

Afghan government also denounced spring offensive of Taliban terrorist outfit that its fighters already stormed several districts and attacked many Afghan forces checkpoints and government compounds in different areas of the country.

According to the government, Taliban’s announcement of yet another offensive which is an indication of Taliban’s hawkish attitude to prolong their illegitimate war.

Taliban announced their offensive while the Afghan government has stepped up its efforts for peace to end the imposed war on Afghans, and the U.S. Special Envoy for Afghanistan Reconciliation has been engaged in direct talks with the insurgent group.

Taliban insist to prolong the conflict in Afghanistan whereas Afghan Ulema pronounced the war illegal and seditious, and demanded Taliban to cease their unwarranted violence. Afghan and international Ulema have persistently declared the war illegitimate according to Islamic tenets, and enunciated that there is no Islamic justification for prolonging the fighting.

Presidential Palace said in a statement that Taliban erroneously claim that their announcement is a reaction to the government’s utterance of declaring an offensive. Not only has the Afghan government not announced any combat operation, it has removed all obstacles to a peaceful settlement and considers war not in the interests of any party.

The Afghan government calls on all Afghans, who fight in the ranks of Taliban, and are used as cannon fodder by the tyrannical Taliban leadership and their regional patrons, to denounce Taliban’s ranks and abstain from terrorizing and killing their fellow Afghans, the statement added.

The Afghan government also calls on those Taliban leaders who oppose the war, to stand with their fellow Afghans and voice their opposition against this unlawful war.

According to the statement, the Afghan National Defense and Security Forces have been given clear orders: to defend their people based on principles of territorial integrity and national and Islamic values. While the Afghan government is fully prepared to defend every inch of the country, it once again calls on the Taliban to give up perpetuating their illegitimate fight and welcome the Afghan government’s unconditional offer for negotiations.

With current skirmishes and no clear clue where the peace talks could go, peace and stability still have been a distant dream for the Afghan masses as they within the country or abroad have been desperately waiting for peace to be prevailed. Despite numerous challenges and frustration over peace, what makes Afghans to still remain optimistic about the process is the support of different countries in the world, regional and European countries in general and the US in particular.

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