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“Islamabad has to ensure terrorism doesn’t transpire from its soil for peace in Afghanistan and South East Asia”; comments US Spokesperson Morgan Ortagus

WASHINGTON: There will no peace in Afghanistan without Pakistan ensuring that terrorism doesn’t transpire from their premises, the US has once again said. On being asked if the US has firmly conveyed to Pakistan to stop supporting terror, Morgan Ortagus, Spokesperson of the US State Department said here on Tuesday: “Yes, we have a complicated relationship with Pakistan as evidenced by the fact that US President Donald Trump decided to stop all military aid to them early in his administration.”

“I totally concur with your question that there will no peace in Afghanistan, no peace in South East Asia without Pakistan ensuring that terrorism doesn’t transpire from their premises or from Afghanistan,” she said. Highlighting India’s role in Afghanistan, the official said India has been a crucial partner for us in Afghanistan for 20 years. “We know that we will be partners for decades to come,” she said.

Recalling that India helped build the new Parliament building in Afghanistan, Morgan Ortagus, Spokesperson of the US State Department said: “India has been crucial to the peace and stability of Afghanistan. They are obviously incredibly committed.”

She further said that as the world’s largest democracy, India will play a crucial role in continuing to help this “fledgeling democracy” move along.

She expressed hope that as a model for how democracy can thrive, India’s positive influence will continue in Afghanistan.

“India has been such a vital partner to the United States in so many different areas and I think that is evidenced by the fact that President of the United States, Donald Trump just decided to go to India to meet with (Prime Minister Narendra) Modi and the entire government there,” she said recalling his recent visit while adding that the pride and partnership of Indian people and American people was on full display.

Representatives of the United States and the Taliban on Saturday signed the long-awaited deal in Qatar’s capital city of Doha, calling for a gradual withdrawal of US troops if the Taliban negotiates with the Afghan government and cuts ties with terrorist groups.

Donald Trump:

Meanwhile, President Donald Trump spoke by phone to the leader of the Taliban, the militant group and the US leader said on Tuesday, days after Washington signed a historic deal with the militants.

Trump, speaking to reporters at the White House, said he had “a very good talk with the leader of the Taliban”, without naming him.

The 35-minute call came a day after the militants ended a partial truce and threw into doubt peace talks between Kabul and the militants that are due to begin on March 10, according to the US-Taliban agreement signed on Saturday.

A transcript of the phone call released by the Taliban quoted fighter-turned-negotiator Mullah Baradar urging Trump to “take determined actions in regard to the withdrawal of foreign forces from Afghanistan”.

Afghanistan within 14 months, subject to Taliban security guarantees and a pledge by the insurgents to hold talks with Kabul.

But a dispute over a prisoner swap has raised questions about whether the negotiations between Kabul and the Taliban will go ahead.

The agreement includes a commitment to exchange 5,000 Taliban prisoners held by the Afghan government in return for 1,000 captives — something the militants have cited as a prerequisite for talks but which President Ashraf Ghani has refused to do before negotiations start.

Baradar called on Trump to “not allow anyone to take actions that violate the terms of the agreement thus embroiling you even further in this prolonged war”, according to the Taliban transcript.

Taliban attacks

The Taliban carried out dozens of attacks on Afghan army bases, officials said on Tuesday, hours after ending a partial truce and throwing into doubt peace talks between Kabul and the insurgents.

In the last 24 hours the Taliban conducted 33 attacks in 16 of Afghanistan’s 34 provinces, interior ministry spokesman Nasrat Rahimi said.

“As a result, six civilians were killed and 14 wounded. Eight enemy were also killed, 15 wounded,” he said on Twitter.

Two soldiers were killed in one of the attacks in southern Kandahar province, a government statement said.

An attack in Logar province near Kabul killed five security forces, the provincial governor’s spokesman Didar Lawang said.

The halt to the limited truce, which began on February 22, ends what was a welcome reprieve for ordinary Afghans who have borne the brunt of the deadly violence. But experts said the move was unsurprising as both sides seek to exploit whatever leverage they hold to force the other’s hand.