The US peace envoy Zalmay Khalilzad on Thursday urged the Taliban to remain committed to the implementation of the US-Taliban peace agreement, warning that the rising level of violence in the country is threatening peace.
“Following several meetings General Miller and I had with the Taliban, we agreed to re-set actions by strictly adhering to implementation of all elements of the U.S.-Taliban Agreement and all commitments made,” Khalilzad wrote on Twitter.
“This means reduced numbers of operations. At present too many Afghans are dying. With the re-set, we expect that number to drop significantly,” said Khalilzad.
On the Taliban’s recent attacks, Khalilzad said: “Attacks have been on the rise in recent weeks - threatening the peace process and alarming the Afghan people and their regional and international supporters.”
Khalilzad also said: “We will do our part and will monitor implementation actively. All parties must deliver on their responsibilities. We thank our international partners for their assistance and support.”
Taliban spokesperson Mohammad Naeem tweeted that the group's chief negotiator Mawlavi Abdul Hakim met with the US's Zalmay Khalilzad and Gen. Miller and the two sides discussed the implementation of the Doha peace agreement.
Notably, Naeem did not mention that an agreement was made for both sides to reduce operations.
Meanwhile, the NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg met US peace envoy Zalmay Khalilzad and the two sides discussed the situation in Afghanistan, Stoltenberg tweeted.
“The Doha talks offer the best chance for peace, but Taliban must keep their promises and reduce the unacceptable level of violence. NATO remains committed to Afghanistan’s security,” said Stoltenberg.
This comes hours after UNAMA on Thursday said that the increase of violence “only heaps further hardship and misery on ordinary Afghans and undermines efforts for progress and building bridges between parties at the historic Afghanistan peace talks in Doha.”
UNAMA also said that the violence “unleashed in Helmand this week has forced thousands of Afghanistan civilians to leave their homes and initial reports suggest civilians have been killed and injured, including women and children.”
In the meantime, the US Chargé d’Affaires Ross Wilson on social media said “I stand behind UNAMA’s call to protect civilians in Helmand, who should have safe passage to leave dangerous areas. It is indefensible that the Taliban continues to put civilians at risk through needless violence. Afghanistan needs peace now.”
Also, the UK embassy in Kabul condemns the Taliban offensive in Helmand where “alarming numbers of civilians" have been "displaced, injured or killed" and says the attacks "undermine the crucial peace talks" and all sides "must urgently reduce the violence and work towards a ceasefire."
“We continue to support the ANDSF and the brave efforts made to create lasting peace and stability in Afghanistan,” the UK Embassy said.
Clashes between government forces and the Taliban in Lashkargah, the capital of Helmand, and surrounding areas have entered their sixth day.
On Wednesday, at least nine people were killed when two Afghan National Army (ANA) MI-17 helicopters "crashed due to technical issues" in Nawa district of Helmand early on Wednesday morning, the Ministry of Defense (MoD) said.
Amid deteriorating security, Afghan acting Minister of Defense Assadullah Khalild on Wednesday visited Lashkargah where he pledged to improve the security situation.
Clashes have been ongoing in several parts of Lashkargah, the capital of Helmand, and Nadi Ali district. The Taliban began their attacks on the city and other districts on the weekend.
On Monday night, Afghan commandos with air support launched an operation in Lashkargah, according to local officials.
The fighting was ongoing in the 601 highway and in Nad Ali district and the Babaji area in PD4 of Lashkargah.
Thousands of families have been displaced because of the fighting in recent days.