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Stoltenberg urges Taliban to “break all bonds” with al-Qaeda

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KABUL: The NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg has said that situations in Afghanistan remained challenging and the Taliban group must live up to their commitments, and “break all bonds” with Al-Qaeda.

In a pre-ministerial press conference on Tuesday, Mr. Stoltenberg said that NATO will continue to adjust their presence in support of the peace process.

“But for the peace to succeed, the Taliban must live up to their commitments. To reduce violence, break all bonds with Al-Qaida and other international terrorist groups, and engage in intra-Afghan talks in good faith,” he added.

Answering a question, he said there is some progress in Afghanistan. “We have seen the agreement between the United States and the Taliban. We have seen some steps, important steps have been taken when it comes to prisoners’ release. And we have seen some reduction in violence, especially when it comes to no attacks against NATO and US forces. And we have also seen a clear commitment from the Taliban to break all ties with Al Qaeda and other terrorist groups,” he added.

At the same time, the situation in Afghanistan remains fragile, difficult and there are many obstacles that we have to overcome before we have a lasting political solution in Afghanistan, he lamented.

“We continue to support the peace efforts. We strongly believe that this has to be an Afghan-owned and Afghan-led process. That’s the reason why we really hope and support all efforts to start the intra-Afghan negotiations. This is again an issue I have discussed with… I spoke with President Ghani and also Mr Abdullah a few weeks ago about this issue; an issue I have also discussed with President Trump. And we have an ongoing conversation now in NATO on how we can best support the peace efforts by adjusting our presence, but making sure we do that in a coordinated way,” he furthered.

This is as recently the United Nations said in a report that the Taliban in Afghanistan still maintains close relations with the terror network al-Qaida, despite having signed a peace deal with the US agreeing to tackle militant groups.

According to the report, a number of important al-Qaida members were killed over the past months but several prominent leaders remain active in Afghanistan.

In particular, the report noted that the Taliban continues to operate with ally and guerrilla insurgent group – the Haqqani network. 

But Taliban group has criticized the UN report as “baseless and bigoted.”

Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid rejected the report and in a statement said that the Taliban “in accordance with the Doha agreement, will not allow anyone to use the soil of Afghanistan against anyone else.

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