A US peace envoy returned to the Middle East on Tuesday to warn the Taliban not to pursue a military victory on the ground and deliver a clear message: a Taliban government that comes to power by force in Afghanistan will not be recognized .
The US State Department said Zalmay Khalilzad, the US envoy, was in Doha, Qatar, where the Taliban maintain a political office, to “help formulate a joint international response to the rapidly deteriorating situation in Afghanistan. “.
The development comes amid a relentless Taliban offensive that has lasted a week, as US and NATO forces finalize their withdrawal from war-torn Afghanistan.
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Insurgents captured five of the country’s 34 provincial capitals in less than a week. They are now fighting the West-backed government for control of three more, including the city of Lashkar Gah, the capital of southern Helmand province, and Kandahar city, the capital of neighboring Kandahar province.
The roundup of the militants comes despite the condemnations of the international community and the refusal of the Taliban to return to the negotiating table.
Khalilzad, the US envoy, “would urge the Taliban to stop their military offensive and negotiate a political settlement, which is the only path to stability and development in Afghanistan,” the State Department said.
Meanwhile, the Taliban military leader released an audio message to his fighters on Tuesday, ordering them not to harm Afghan forces and government officials in the territories they are conquering. The recording was shared on Twitter by Taliban spokesman in Doha Mohammad Naim.
In the nearly five-minute audio, Mohammad Yaqoob, the son of the late Taliban leader Mullah Mohammad Omar, also tells insurgents to stay outside the abandoned homes of fled government and security officials, to keep markets open and to protect places of business, including banks.
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It was not immediately clear whether the Taliban fighters on the ground would follow Yaqoob’s instructions. Civilians who fled the Taliban’s advances reported that the insurgents were being mistreated: schools burned down and restrictions imposed on women.
Revenge killings have also been reported in areas where the Taliban have taken control. Insurgents also claimed responsibility for the murder of a comedian in southern Kandahar, the assassination of the Kabul government media chief and a bombing targeting acting Defense Minister Bismillah Khan Mohammadi, killing eight and others injured. The minister was not injured in the attack.
The intensification of the war has also increased the number of civilian casualties.
The International Committee of the Red Cross said its staff treated more than 4,000 Afghans this month at its 15 facilities across the country, including in Helmand and Kandahar, where Afghan and US airstrikes are trying to curb the onslaught of the Taliban.
“We see destroyed houses, endangered medical staff and patients, and damaged hospitals, electricity and water infrastructure,” Eloi Fillion, head of the ICRC delegation in Afghanistan, said in a statement. .
“The use of explosive weapons in cities has an indiscriminate impact on the population,” Fillion added. “Many families have no choice but to flee in search of a safer place. This must stop.”
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The lightning speed at which the Taliban has amassed gains on the battlefield has made the need to resume talks urgent. The push began in April, when the United States and NATO announced they would end their military presence and bring the last of their troops home. The final date for the withdrawal is August 31, but the US Central Command has said the withdrawal is already 95% complete.
On Monday, the United States stressed that the Biden administration now sees the fight as a fight for the Afghan political and military leaders to win or lose.
“When we look back, it will depend on the leadership and leadership demonstrated or not” by the Afghans, Pentagon spokesman John Kirby said at a Pentagon press conference. “It is their country to defend now. It is their fight.”
Khalilzad, architect of Trump administration negotiated peace deal with Taliban, to meet with key players, as well as “multilateral organizations” to see how to resume talks and stop assault of the Taliban.
The US envoy will also likely seek a commitment from neighbors of Afghanistan and the region not to recognize a Taliban government that comes to power by force. When the Taliban last ruled Afghanistan, three countries recognized their dominance: Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.
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Senior Afghan officials may visit Doha in the coming days, including Abdullah Abdullah, who heads the government’s reconciliation council. Pakistani national security adviser Moeed Yusuf on Monday called for “reinvigorated” efforts to bring all parties to the conflict back to talks, describing a protracted war in Afghanistan as a “nightmare scenario” for Pakistan.
Yusuf, speaking to foreign reporters in Islamabad, declined to say definitively whether Pakistan, which holds considerable sway over the Taliban, would recognize a forcibly installed Taliban government, saying instead that Pakistan wants to see a government ” inclusive “in Kabul.
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