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US-Iran Tensions Will Not Affect Talks: Taliban

US-Iran Tensions Will Not Affect Talks: Taliban

KABUL – The Taliban said Thursday that escalating military tensions between the United States and Iran are unlikely to hurt the group’s talks with Washington aimed at ending the war in Afghanistan.
The first official reaction from the Taliban comes a day after Tehran fired more than a dozen ballistic missiles at two bases in Iraq housing US troops, though they did not cause any casualties. The attack was a retaliation to Friday’s American airstrike in the Iraqi capital of Baghdad that killed Iranian military commander, Qassem Soleimani.
Suhail Shaheen, who is spokesperson for the group’s negotiating team, told the Voice of America that the tensions will not affect the talks as the “peace agreement is finalized and only remains to be signed.”
He stressed that such progress in the years of negotiations was only achieved because both the US and the Taliban realized that the Afghan crisis could only be resolved politically.
Earlier, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said that Iran was actively working on hampering the Afghan reconciliation process.
Pompeo also defended the Baghdad air raid that killed Iran’s Quds force commander Qasem Soleimani, saying that it was highly unlikely that he arrived in the Iraqi capital with a peaceful mission.
The Afghan peace process hit an unexpected hurdle in autumn 2019, when President Trump abruptly cancelled a peace summit that was supposed to see the deal that Shaheen was referring to signed.
US chief peace negotiator Zalmay Khalilzad had acknowledged in early September a draft agreement had been reached with the Taliban and it could begin a US troop drawdown process in a few months.
Just days later, however, President Donald Trump temporarily suspended the peace process citing a Taliban attack that killed an American soldier and 11 other people in the Afghan capital, Kabul.
The dialogue was resumed early last month only to be paused again after the Taliban staged a major attack on the largest US military base of Bagram.
Khalilzad has demanded the Taliban reduce attacks or observe a brief ceasefire before the talks could be resumed.But the Taliban has refused to cease hostilities until the proposed agreement is singed with the US
Insurgent sources say Khalilzad is currently visiting the Qatari capital of Doha, where he has made informal contacts with Taliban representatives to find out whether they are ready to meet his demand for a ceasefire or reduction in the violence.
Neither Taliban nor US officials have commented on Khalilzad’s presence in the Gulf nation, which has played host to the US-Taliban talks since late 2018.
(Sahar News)

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