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Afghans cautiously welcome halt to secret US-Taliban summit

Many Afghans had expressed deep unease throughout talks

By AFP - Sep 08,2019 - Last updated at Sep 08,2019

KABUL — President Donald Trump's announcement that he had called off negotiations with the Taliban, apparently ending a year-long diplomatic push to exit America's longest war, has left the withdrawal deal shrouded in uncertainty.

But in the streets of Kabul on Sunday, some residents expressed their satisfaction at Trump's move.

"It is good that the talks have been cancelled, there should be intra-Afghan talks, and people should be involved in it, and they should be informed about it," 52-year-old Mir Dil told AFP.

If the Taliban "had accepted peace, they should have announced a ceasefire and then the talks should have moved forward", he added.

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani's office cautiously saluted the "sincere efforts of its allies" after Trump tweeted that he had cancelled unprecedented — albeit separate — meetings with the Taliban and Ghani at Camp David.

The presidency also "insisted that a real peace can only be achieved if the Taliban stop killing Afghans and accept a ceasefire, and face-to-face talks with the Afghan government", according to a statement.

Trump's announcement that he would "call off peace negotiations" appears to abruptly end, at least for now, a painstaking and nearly year-long diplomatic process led by veteran US diplomat Zalmay Khalilzad, who held nine rounds of talks with the Taliban, mostly in Qatar.

Many Afghans had expressed deep unease throughout the talks, from which their internationally recognised government has been excluded, seeing them as a beaten America selling out in a bid to escape Afghanistan after 18 years of gruelling war.

"It was a good opportunity for [the Taliban] but it was wasted because they did not stop attacks," 22-year-old Ahmad Jawed told AFP.

"I'm personally happy that the US-Taliban talks have collapsed," said 24-year-old shopkeeper Hamid Akbari.

"If the Taliban come back in some form, the country will go backwards, and Afghanistan will be isolated again," he added.

Kabul resident Yama Safdari, 24, regretted that it took the death of one American to stop the process "while so many Afghan army forces and civilians are killed on a daily basis".

"They do not think about that," she added.

Many Afghans welcomed the decision on social media.

"At least for the first time the Taliban might feel regret for their attacks and killing innocent people," wrote Facebook user Iqbal Ahmad.

 

 Trump 'media-driven' 

 

Davood Moradian, director of the Afghan Institute for Strategic Studies, said the top US negotiator, Afghan-born envoy Zalmay Khalilzad, was "solely responsible".

"He excluded not only the Afghan Government, but also important stakeholders in Washington and US allies, including the EU, NATO and India," he told AFP.

Moradian also criticised Khalilzad for giving "the illusion that the US is desperate to leave Afghanistan, with or without a working agreement".

Ahmad Saeedi, an Afghan analyst, said the move will "break the Taliban's pride and ambition" — but added that the talks could yet resume.

"Trump is a media-driven politician and in the past few days American media expressed their concern about a bad deal with the Taliban," he said.

"I think the talks will resume again at some point later but since the Taliban were flexing muscles on the ground, Americans also showed them they have a say politically."

The Afghan presidency affirmed on Sunday that it was "committed to working together with the United States and other allies to bring a lasting peace".

It also stated that it "insists" on holding Afghan presidential elections scheduled for September 28.

"Any future path towards peace has to be based on the will of the Afghan people, it should be Afghan-led... We think we have the mandate," government spokesman Sediq Seddiqi said in a later statement.

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