New Afghanistan setup: Consensus evades government formation

Written by on August 24, 2021

KABUL: The formation of an inclusive government in Afghanistan seems to be heading towards a delay, as the US President Joe Biden is under immense pressure of the European Union and Britain to extend the complete pullout deadline.

Biden has insisted he wants to end the US military presence and the airlifts by August 31 but the European Union and Britain say it would be impossible to get everyone out by then. Speaking at the White House on Sunday, Biden said talks were underway to explore the possibility of extending the deadline.

He also acknowledged the tragic scenes at the Kabul airport, which included babies and children being passed on to soldiers over razor-wire fences and men clinging to the outside of departing planes.

But he said they were part of the cost of departure. “There is no way to evacuate this many people without pain and loss and heartbreaking images you see,” he said. On the contrary, the Taliban Monday warned that there would be “consequences” if the United States and its allies extended their presence in Afghanistan beyond next week, as chaos continued to overwhelm the Kabul airport.

“If the US or the UK were to seek additional time to continue evacuations — the answer is no. Or there would be consequences,” Taliban spokesman Suhail Shaheen told Sky News.

“It’s a red line. President Biden announced that on August 31 they would withdraw all their military forces. So if they extend it that means they are extending occupation while there is no need for that.” “It will create mistrust between us. If they are intent on continuing the occupation it will provoke a reaction,” said Shaheen.

Two Taliban sources meanwhile told AFP they would not announce the makeup of new government or cabinet until the last US soldier had left the country. The rush to leave Kabul has sparked harrowing scenes and killed at least eight people, some crushed to death while at least one person died after falling from a moving plane.

One Afghan was killed and three others were injured in a dawn firefight on Monday that according to the German military erupted between Afghan guards and unknown assailants. German and American troops “participated in further exchange of fire”, the German army said in a statement.

Outside of Kabul, there have been flickers of resistance against the Taliban. Some ex-government troops have gathered in the Panjshir Valley, north of the capital — long known as an anti-Taliban bastion.

The Taliban said Monday their fighters had surrounded resistance forces holed up in the valley, but were looking to negotiate rather than take the fight to them. Taliban fighters “are stationed near Panjshir”, spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid tweeted, saying they had the area surrounded on three sides.

“The Islamic Emirate is trying to resolve this issue peacefully,” he added. The announcement follows scattered reports of clashes overnight, with pro-Taliban social media accounts claiming gunmen were massing, and Afghanistan´s former vice president Amrullah Saleh saying resistance forces were holding strong.

One of the leaders of the movement in Panjshir, named the National Resistance Front, is the son of famed anti-Taliban commander Ahmad Shah Massoud. The NRF is prepared for a “long-term conflict” but is also still seeking to negotiate with the Taliban about an inclusive government, its spokesman Ali Maisam Nazary told AFP in an interview on the weekend.

“The conditions for a peace deal with the Taliban are decentralisation, a system that ensures social justice, equality, rights, and freedom for all,” he said. Meanwhile, Russian and Iran Monday expressed their concern over delay in the formation of an inclusive government in Afghanistan, reports the international media.

Iran´s foreign ministry Monday called on “all parties” in Afghanistan to refrain from using violence and said Tehran supports the establishment of an “inclusive” government in Kabul. “All groups and political parties [in Afghanistan] must refrain from using force and proceed using negotiation and talks,” ministry spokesman Saeed Khatibzadeh told reporters at a televised press conference in Tehran.

Iran “is in constant communication with all political sides in Afghanistan” and “supports the peaceful transition of power to an inclusive government,” he added, stressing that “the crisis has no military solution”.

Khatibzadeh said Iran hoped that such a government would be able to build a “safe, blooming and stable Afghanistan” using the “opportunity” of foreign forces´ withdrawal. Russia Monday said it will not interfere in the stand-off between the Taliban and their opponents in Afghanistan.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said on Monday that leaders of the Collective Security Treaty Organisation member states discussed the standoff and its implications of another civil war in Afghanistan”.

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