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US withdrawal from Afghanistan welcome, foreign forces can’t bring peace in this region: Iran

Iran FM says the US announcement on withdrawal is a positive move and it has to be taken in light of the realities of the region.

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New Delhi: The Iranian Foreign Minister Friday welcomed the announcement made by US President Joe Biden to withdraw American troops from war-torn Afghanistan by 11 September even as he said “presence of foreign troops” can never bring peace in the region.

Speaking during a session at the Raisina Dialogue 2021, External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar and Afghanistan National Security Adviser Hamdullah Mohib also somewhat echoed the statement.

“The announcement by US to finally withdraw from Afghanistan in a responsible way is a positive move and it has to be taken in light of the realities of our region…” Iranian FM Javad Zarif said during the session.

“…presence of foreign forces have never contributed to peace and stability in our region and removal will lead to at least less grounds for violence and Taliban should not use this opportunity to increase violence because as we enter the Spring and the fighting season we need to respect the wishes of the people of Afghanistan… enough is enough,” Zarif said.

In January, Iran had hosted a meeting with senior Taliban leaders to understand which way the peace talks are going with the US as well as with the Afghan government as the intra-Afghan talks hit a dead-end in Doha, Qatar.

The intra-Afghan dialogue refers to negotiations between the representatives of the Afghan government and the Taliban leaders to bring them into mainstream politics.

“Taliban should be part of the process in Afghanistan and Taliban should not control that peace. The democratic institutions of Afghanistan which has been the work of the people of Afghanistan for the past 20 years must remain in place and it must become even more inclusive with the Taliban abandoning violence and entering a political process,” Zarif said Friday.

“Now we have the beginning of the withdrawal of foreign forces. Now the objectives of ending foreign forces in Afghanistan has been achieved. Now is the time to work for a broad-based government in Afghanistan based on the Constitution and framework that already Afghanistan agreed on,” he added.

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‘Uncharted territory’

During the session, Mohib said Afghanistan doesn’t need US combat troops on the ground but it needs support for the Afghan National Defense and Security Forces (ANDSF) as that will “provide Afghanistan an opportunity to move forward”.

Mohib also said that withdrawal of the NATO troops from his country will also not be an easy one and thus Kabul will need the support of its regional partners, like India, now more than ever.

“We are in an uncharted territory. There is a lot of uncertainty. The devil is going to be in the details of what we negotiate with the US and NATO. What kind and what level of support will be provided to the ANDSF, how will this transition take place what will the relationship look like beyond that… This is a time when we work closely with our regional partners,” he said.

The Afghan NSA also said, “The Taliban has no reason to continue their (dominance) in Afghanistan anymore. The reason(s) why they continued are now totally out of the picture and it is time for them to make real peace with the Afghan government and become part of the mainstream political society.”

‘Big step’

External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar said the US announcement is a “big step” in the taking Afghanistan to a “certain direction”.

“It is important that we all work together to ensure that the direction is right and the outcomes are good for Afghanistan… We’ve always believed this (peace process) should be an Afghan-led, Afghan-owned and Afghan-controlled process, which essentially is saying that what is good for Afghanistan should be decided by Afghans,” he said.

“What all of us would like to see today is what is in the collective interest of Afghanistan and I don’t think that’s rocket science,” he said, adding that the Americans are not the only foreigners there but there other foreign nationals too.

However, he also said issues arise when countries that are involved in the peace process of Afghanistan don’t practice what they believe in.

“Issue is, how do you get everybody to work together to what they say they believe in without going a different way because of calculation and short-term interest and pressure from other parties that they may feel,” he said.

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‘Taliban destroyed $900 mn worth of infrastructure

According to Mohib, the Taliban has not only resorted to continued violence despite signing the peace deal with the US in February last year, it has also destroyed national infrastructure worth $900 million.

“They have wasted these past few months in not having negotiated a settlement. They have lost their nationalistic credentials, which is something they touted…” he said

They have wasted millions of dollars of national infrastructure. We have estimated that we lose around $900 million of infrastructure a year to Taliban’s destruction, which is not helping their nationalistic cause. So they are losing those credentials. They are losing reasons for fight,” he stressed.

US moving out

On Wednesday, the US announced that it will withdraw its troops from Afghanistan on 11 September, which will mark the 20th anniversary of the terrorist attack that rocked America in 2001.

Since then America is fighting the war in Afghanistan, its longest ever, in which over 2,400 American soldiers have died. The war itself has cost about $2 trillion.

Subsequent to Biden’s announcement, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken made a surprise visit to Kabul.

During his visit, Blinken met Afghan President Ashraf Ghani and Abdullah Abdullah, chairman of the country’s High Council for National Reconciliation, as well as other senior leaders.

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