U.S. warns Taliban that level of violence 'not conducive' for peace process

UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) – The United States warned the Taliban on Tuesday that the current high level of violence by the insurgents was “not conducive to advancing the peace process” as the United Nations Security Council backed a U.S.-led push to end Afghanistan’s 18-year war.

The United States signed an agreement with the Taliban last month. It calls for a phased withdrawal of U.S.-led foreign forces if the Taliban keeps its commitments and for the start of talks between the insurgents and an Afghan government delegation on a political settlement to end decades of conflict.

“We acknowledge the Taliban have taken steps to stop attacks in cities and against major bases,” Deputy U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Cherith Norman Chalet told the U.N. Security Council.

“But more needs to be done and we urge them to also reduce violence against Afghan forces in the countryside to give intra-Afghan negotiations and peace the opportunity to succeed,” she said after the 15-member council unanimously adopted a U.S.-drafted resolution on Afghanistan.

The U.N. resolution welcomed “the significant steps towards ending the war and opening the door to intra-Afghan negotiations” enabled by separate U.S. agreements with the Taliban and the Afghan government.

The council also expressed a “readiness upon the commencement of the intra-Afghan negotiations to consider the start of the review of the status” of Taliban sanctions.

Compounding the challenges faced by Afghanistan, an escalating political feud is also threatening political chaos.

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani was sworn in for a second term on Monday, but the ceremony was marred by a rocket attack and his political rival, former chief executive Abdullah Abdullah, held his own inauguration ceremony.

Both Ghani and Abdullah say they are Afghanistan’s rightful leader following a disputed election in September.

“We are strongly against the establishment of any parallel administrations or government structures and we call on all concerned to come together and resolve differences constructively,” British U.N. Ambassador Karen Pierce said in remarks directed at Adbullah.

Earlier on Tuesday at the United Nations, former U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton appeared to take a swipe at the U.S. deal with the Taliban, saying: “It is difficult to have an agreement when you leave out the government of the country that you are expecting to uphold and live under that agreement.”

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Speaking at an event on Afghan women’s rights, she also stressed the need for women to be at the negotiating table.

“Afghan women today are rightly afraid… that the gains they have made with all of our help will be washed away in a rush to achieve a peace that will not hold anyway,” Clinton said. “This is not just morally wrong, this is dangerous.”

The Security Council resolution emphasized the importance of including women, youth and minorities and ensuring any political settlement protects their rights.

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