Foreign diplomatic missions in Afghanistan called for the Taliban on Monday to urgently cease their military offensive, saying it runs counter to claims the insurgent group wants a negotiated settlement to the war.
The collective call comes a day after the Taliban and senior envoys representing the Afghan government ended a two-day meeting in Doha, Qatar, Sunday, without reporting any significant progress on peace talks.
The insurgent violence “thwarts efforts to arrive at a negotiated solution to the conflict and harms and displaces the civilian population,” 15 missions, including the United States, along with the NATO envoy in the country lamented in a joint statement.
“The Taliban’s offensive is in direct contradiction to their claim to support a negotiated settlement of the conflict, and to the Doha peace process,” the statement said.
It was widely anticipated the Doha meeting over the weekend would produce a temporary mutual ceasefire to allow war-weary Afghans peacefully celebrate the Muslim festival of Eid starting Tuesday.
But a post-meeting joint statement made no mention of a halt to the escalating Afghan hostilities.
“We agreed to continue the talks, seek a political settlement to the current crisis, avoid civilian casualties, facilitate humanitarian assistance and medical supplies to tackle COVID-19 pandemic,” Abdullah Abdullah, who headed Kabul’s delegation at the talks, tweeted Monday.
No Eid truce
The Taliban over the past three years have observed temporary Eid truces, but this time they have made no such announcement and instead stepped up battlefield attacks.
“This Eid al-Adha (festival), the Taliban should lay down their weapons for good and show the world their commitment to the peace process,” the foreign missions stressed in their statement.
It also condemned alleged rights abuses, such as shutting schools and media outlets in insurgent-controlled areas.
The Taliban have captured several new districts since early May when the United States and NATO allied troops began formally withdrawing from Afghanistan after almost 20 years of war, and they plan to complete the drawdown by the end of next month.
The Taliban claimed Monday their fighters had made new gains in parts of the country while Afghan government forces also reported retaking a number of districts from the insurgents.
Taliban chief Hibatullah Akhundzada in his Eid-related message said he “strenuously favors” a political settlement to the war, but stopped short of asking pro-government Afghan security forces to submit to his insurgent group and pave the way for the establishment of “an Islamic system” in the country.
Afghan President Ashraf Ghani and his government have downplayed Taliban advances, saying security forces are determined to take lost territory.
Ghani travelled to western Herat province next to the border with Iran to review the security situation there. The Taliban have recently captured almost all the districts in Herat, effectively placing the provincial capital under siege.
Turkey to hold talks with Taliban
Separately, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Monday the Taliban “need to end the occupation of their brothers’ soil and show the world that peace is prevailing in Afghanistan right away.”
Turkish media quoted Erdogan as telling reporters in Istanbul that his government was planning talks with the Taliban over the group’s opposition to Turkey’s plans to secure and manage Kabul’s international airport after U.S.-led international troops leave Afghanistan.
Washington has asked Ankara to secure the Kabul airport in post-troop withdrawal Afghanistan. Erdogan said last week that he had agreed in his recent meeting with U.S. President Joe Biden on the “scope” of how to undertake the proposed mission.
The Taliban denounced his statement as “reprehensible” and threatened Turkish troops with “jihad” if they stay in Afghanistan after all international forces leave the country.
Erdogan said Monday Turkey was planning to discuss the issue with the Taliban but shared no further details.
“God willing, we will see what kind of talks we will have with the Taliban and see where these talks take us,” said the Turkish president.