US-Backed Afghan Peace Talks Postponed 04/21 06:03
An upcoming international peace conference that was meant to move
Afghanistan's warring sides to a power-sharing deal and ensure an orderly U.S.
exit from the country has been postponed, its sponsors announced Wednesday,
citing a lack of prospects for meaningful progress.
KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) -- An upcoming international peace conference that
was meant to move Afghanistan's warring sides to a power-sharing deal and
ensure an orderly U.S. exit from the country has been postponed, its sponsors
announced Wednesday, citing a lack of prospects for meaningful progress.
The decision came several days after Taliban insurgents, who are key to
peace efforts, dismissed the U.S.-promoted conference in Istanbul as a
political spectacle serving American interests.
No new date was given for the conference, which was to have started Saturday
under the sponsorship of the United Nations, Turkey and Qatar. Turkey's foreign
minister said the conference was delayed until after the Muslim fasting month
of Ramadan which ends in mid-May.
The delay underscored the difficulties the Biden administration and NATO are
facing in orchestrating an orderly exit from conflict-scarred Afghanistan. Both
have said they would begin withdrawing their remaining troops -- a total of
close to 13,000 -- from the country on May 1 and complete the pullout by Sept.
11, no matter what.
Just hours before the announcement of the postponement, a suicide bomber
attacked a convoy of Afghan security personnel, wounding seven people in the
capital of Kabul. The interior ministry said civilians and security personnel
were among the wounded.
The attack was the first in weeks in the capital, even as targeted killings
have escalated and Afghanistan's security personnel have come under relentless
attacks by Taliban insurgents. Recent months have also seen an increase in
government bombing raids on suspected Taliban positions and increased raids by
Afghan special forces.
Residents fear the attack could be a harbinger of what's to come as foreign
troops prepare to begin their final withdrawal from Afghanistan. No one took
immediate responsibility for the attack.
Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said the conference was postponed
because of "lack of clarity" by the participants, without elaborating.
The U.N. Assistance Mission in Afghanistan said in a statement Wednesday
that the conference will be held at "a later date when conditions for making
meaningful progress would be more favorable."
Until now, the Taliban have refused to sign on to the conference even as
Pakistan, where their leadership council resides, has been pressing the
hardline Islamic militia to attend.
The Taliban have accused Washington of breaching an agreement signed last
year under which the U.S. was to have withdrawn the last of its troops by May 1.
But President Joe Biden, who inherited that deal with the Taliban from his
predecessor, last week said the remaining estimated 2,500 troops would begin
leaving on May 1. All American and NATO soldiers would be gone by Sept. 11, the
20th anniversary of the terrorist assault on the U.S. that launched the
U.S.-led invasion to hunt down al Qaida's leader Osama bin Laden.
On Sunday, the Taliban issued an English-language statement on their Al
Emara site, indicating they were not ready to attend the conference. They
claimed that a powerful propaganda campaign had been launched, hyping
expectations that a peace deal would be reached at the end of the planned
The statement said this was an attempt "to push the Taliban, willingly or
unwillingly, to a rushed decision which was needed by America." It alleged that
the aim of the conference was to "complete a for-show road map before the
withdrawal of foreign forces."
In Kabul, Afghan government-allied negotiators had anticipated a delay as
none had received an invitation to the conference and several were without
visas to Turkey.
In Washington the U.S. State Department spokesman Ned Price would not
confirm the postponement but said the U.S. would continue diplomatic efforts to
reach a peace deal.
"When it comes to the talks in Istanbul, this gets to the point that, from
the very earliest days of the Biden administration, we have recognized ... that
there is no military solution to the conflict in Afghanistan, and only through
a political settlement and a comprehensive ceasefire will we be able to support
a resolution that brings a security, stability, and prosperity to the people of
Afghanistan," Price said in a statement.