Afghan president renews calls for peace, demands ceasefire

KABUL: Afghan President Ashraf Ghani made a renewed call for peace on Monday but insisted the Taliban must observe a ceasefire, as he sought to regain a hold on the peace process following the surprise collapse of talks between the United States and the militants.
Ghani’s comments, to a meeting of military leaders in Kabul, came amid uncertainty over the future of efforts to end 18 years of war in Afghanistan after US President Donald Trump’s abrupt cancellation of talks with the Taliban at the weekend.

“We are ready for peace talks but if the Taliban think they can scare us, look at these warriors,” Ghani said, declaring that peace could not be unconditional as he repeated demands for a ceasefire that the Taliban have so far refused.
“Peace without a ceasefire is impossible.” Trump’s refusal to meet the Taliban has left it unclear whether talks can be revived or whether the two sides, locked in a broad stalemate, will continue fighting.
The insurgents’ determination to step up both attacks on provincial centres and suicide bombings even as peace talks were taking place was a key factor in pushing Trump to cancel talks days after a US soldier was killed in the capital Kabul.
The end of the talks has fuelled fears of a further increase in violence across Afghanistan, with heightened security warnings in the Kabul and other centres ahead of a presidential election scheduled for September 28.
The talks, which had been secret until Trump unexpectedly announced their cancellation on Saturday, would have brought the US president face-to-face with senior Taliban leaders at the presidential compound in Camp David, Maryland.

Afghan civilians too on Sunday urged the Taliban to swiftly agree on a ceasefire and resume the talks with the US side and the Afghan government. But at the same time, there were serious concerns that Trump’s move could further lead to the expansion of the war and violence.
A survey conducted by TOLO News showed that a majority of Afghans have welcomed Trump’s decision.
According to the survey on TOLO News’ Facebook page, 76 per cent of the respondents from amongst 25,500 people have said that Trump’s move to cancel the talks with the Taliban was a “right decision”.
On its Twitter account, 1,400 people took part in the survey out of which 44 per cent said that Trump’s decision was right and 40 per cent said that they were worried about the decision and the remaining 15 per cent said that had no interest on the issue.
“The poll shows that ordinary Afghans, who mostly use Facebook, are in favour of the decision but on Twitter, which is mostly used by political elites and those who are well-aware of the situation, they are worried about this decision,” said Siyar Sirat, an editor at TOLO News.
People from different parts of the country interviewed by TOLO News had mixed reaction about the decision.
“To end the war, there is a need to start the negotiations at any level,” one resident said.
“The peace process was moving forward in an unknown and vague way, because of this, the people were concerned about a Taliban comeback. We welcome the decision by the US president,” a woman from Herat said.
“I urge the Taliban and the government to sit together,” said a man from Nangarhar.

The focus of NATO’s mission in Afghanistan is “unchanged”, the alliance said on Monday after a weekend of dramatic developments in the US effort to reach a peace deal with the Taliban. — Agencies