KABUL, Afghanistan

Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, a prominent Afghan mujahideen leader and head of the Hezb-e-Islami party, has said regional proxy wars have complicated the fragile yet rejuvenated peace process in Afghanistan.

Addressing a meeting at party headquarters in Kabul, the veteran leader said the US has reached conclusions that the presence of its forces in Afghanistan has resulted in nothing but financial and human losses.

“They want a deal with the Taliban implemented soon and without delay, and the Kabul government officials have also been told that the agreement will be implemented [despite their opposition],” he said.

Hekmatyar claimed the Afghan government wants to continue with the current situation by creating “obstacles to peace” to delay it until November’s US presidential election. He added that India, due to its rivalry with Pakistan, is not only dissatisfied with the peace process, but has begun supporting local militias against it.

On the role of other regional countries, Hekmatyar said Iran has taken advantage of the situation of war in Afghanistan by controlling up to 80% of the Afghan market, worth more than $10 billion a year, besides receiving an uninterrupted flow of water for irrigation in its southern and eastern provinces. 

“China and Pakistan have a common and coordinated position on Afghanistan, not only do they support the peace process, rather they see it as beneficial to their regional interests, especially if it leads to a reduction in India’s presence in Afghanistan,” he said.

“Some Arab countries, despite close ties with the United States, oppose the current peace process.”

He urged Afghans to keep unity among their ranks to avoid negative consequences of such complexities.

This comes in the wake of US National Security Adviser Robert O’Brien urging President Ashraf Ghani to commence intra-Afghan talks with the Taliban without any delay.

He discussed the need to start the talks during a phone call, official statements from Washington and Kabul said Tuesday.

“NSA O’Brien had a great phone call with President @ashrafghani today to discuss the need for intra-Afghan talks to start without delay. Reiterated U.S. support for a sovereign, democratic, and unified #Afghanistan that never again serves as a source of international terrorism,” the US National Security Council tweeted.

In response to this, Sediq Sediqqi, spokesman for the Afghan president, said the two sides exchanged views on the prisoner swap issue.

“Ghani stressed the need for the start of the direct negotiation between the Taliban and the government. Both emphasized the importance of a cease-fire for a durable peace sustaining the gains of the past 19 years, and the US continued strong support for the Afghan security forces who have made tremendous sacrifices for the Afghan people,” he said.

Peace talks still in limbo 

Cracks emerged in the Afghan government’s negotiating team for proposed peace talks with the Taliban just a day after Ghani issued a decree finalizing 48 names for the talks Sunday.

Ghani’s former rival candidate, Abdullah Abdullah, chairman of the High Council for National Reconciliation, called the presidential decree an infringement on the latter’s authority in this connection. Just a day earlier, former President Hamid Karzai excused himself from being placed in the official negotiating team for talks with the Taliban.

Amid stalled peace talks, the Taliban and Afghan security forces continued to engage in deadly fighting, with both sides claiming to have inflicted heavy tolls on the opposite side.

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