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Taliban:Peace Deal Near Breaking Point 04/06 06:14

   The Taliban said their peace deal with the United States was nearing a 
breaking point, accusing Washington of violations that included drone attacks 
on civilians, while also chastising the Afghan government for delaying the 
release of 5,000 Taliban prisoners promised in the agreement. 

   ISLAMABAD, Pakistan (AP) --- The Taliban said their peace deal with the 
United States was nearing a breaking point, accusing Washington of violations 
that included drone attacks on civilians, while also chastising the Afghan 
government for delaying the release of 5,000 Taliban prisoners promised in the 
agreement. 

   The Taliban said they had restricted attacks against Afghan security forces 
to rural outposts, had not attacked international forces and had not attacked 
Afghan forces in cities or military installations. The Taliban said these 
limits on their attacks had not been specifically laid out in the agreement 
with the U.S. signed in February.

   The Taliban's statement issued Sunday warned of more violence if the U.S. 
and the Afghan government continue alleged violations of the deal. 

   U.S. military spokesman Col. Sonny Leggett in a tweet overnight denied the 
Taliban allegation, saying the U.S. forces in Afghanistan has "upheld and 
continues to uphold the military terms of the U.S.-TB (Taliban) agreement; any 
assertion otherwise is baseless."

   In his tweet, Leggett called for Taliban to reduce violence and said the 
U.S. military will continue to come to the aid of Afghanistan's security forces 
if attacked, in line with the agreement.

   Meanwhile, the militants said they had reduced their attacks compared to 
last year, but said continued violations would "create an atmosphere of 
mistrust that will not only damage the agreements, but also force mujaheddin to 
a similar response and will increase the level of fighting."

   The Taliban have accused the Afghan government of using "indefensible 
arguments" to explain the repeated delays in releasing a promised 5,000 Taliban 
prisoners in exchange for 1,000 government personnel. The Afghan government's 
foot-dragging has also left Washington frustrated.

   Meanwhile, in the Afghan capital, President Ashraf Ghani announced his new 
Cabinet even as he squabbles with his main political challenger over last 
year's election results. Ghani's move came even as Afghan mediators --- 
including former President Hamid Karzai --- shuttled between the president and 
his opponent, Chief Executive Abdullah Abdullah, who has also declared himself 
Afghanistan's president.

   The country's Independent Election Commission has declared Ghani a winner, 
but Abdullah and the Elections Complaint Commission have charged widespread 
irregularities.

   Attempts to negotiate an end to the political turmoil roiling Kabul have 
made little progress, frustrating the U.S. and potentially derailing the next 
stage in the Afghan peace process. Washington has threatened to withhold $1 
billion in aid this year if Ghani and Abdullah can't reach a compromise.

   The Trump administration wants a quick start to intra-Afghan negotiations, 
the next step in the peace deal it signed on Feb. 29. It looked promising when 
Ghani announced his negotiating team last week, but Abdullah's response to it 
has been lukewarm and the Taliban have rejected it as one-sided.

   The U.S. and NATO have already begun to withdraw troops from Afghanistan. 
The full withdrawal is expected to be completed in 14 months and is tied to 
Taliban commitments to fight terrorist groups and help in the battle against 
the Islamic State group.

   The withdrawal is not tied to the success of intra-Afghan negotiations, but 
U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo had traveled to Afghanistan last month to 
try to break the impasse between Ghani and Abdullah. Pompeo left without a 
solution; however, last week he welcomed that the Afghan government had put 
together a negotiating team and made progress toward the prisoner releases.

   Those releases have stumbled even as the Taliban sent a three member team to 
Kabul last week.


(KR)

 
 
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