The Taliban held its first official news conference in Kabul since the shock seizure of the city, declaring on Tuesday it wished for peaceful relations with other countries. “We don’t want any internal or external enemies,” the movement’s main spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid, said. The spokesman asserted that the rights of women will be protected within the framework of Islam.
The Taliban have proposed a three-month ceasefire in Afghanistan in return for the release of 7,000 captured fighters, a government official said. Clashes between the government and the Taliban have intensified since US troops began to withdraw from the country. The Taliban recently claimed their fighters had retaken 85% of territory in Afghanistan – a figure impossible to independently verify and disputed by the government.
Taliban fighters have seized control of a key district in western Afghanistan that includes an important border crossing with Iran, Afghan security officials said, as the armed group continues its rapid military advances around the country. In the last week, the Taliban has overrun areas bordering five countries – Iran, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, China and Pakistan – as foreign forces end their 20-year intervention and the domestic security situation deteriorates.
President Trump said on Saturday that he had canceled a secret meeting at Camp David with Taliban leaders and the president of Afghanistan and was calling off monthslong negotiations that had appeared to be nearing a peace agreement. “If they cannot agree to a ceasefire during these very important peace talks, and would even kill 12 innocent people, then they probably don’t have the power to negotiate a meaningful agreement anyway,” Mr. Trump added.
The Taliban have released an American and an Australian held hostage since 2016 in exchange for three prominent members of the militant group who were released by the Afghan government and flown to Qatar the previous day. Australian Timothy Weeks, 50, and Kevin King, 63, an American, were released in southern Zabul province, ending their more than three years in captivity.
A senior Taliban commander was killed in a US airstrike on Saturday in Afghanistan. Mullah Abdul Manan Akhund was a key Taliban figure and the ‘governor’ and military chief for the southern Helmand province. Taliban spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid confirmed the death of Akhund along with 32 others calling it a ‘big loss’ for the group.
The Taliban have retained close links to al Qaeda and sought its advice during recent negotiations with U.S. officials, despite promising to break ties with the terror group under a preliminary peace agreement with the U.S., according to a U.N. report released Monday. The U.N. report suggests the Taliban have failed to keep their word on a provision seen as central to the U.S-Taliban agreement signed on Feb. 29 in Doha.
After his family returned to Canada following five years in captivity in Afghanistan, Canadian Joshua Boyle claimed that the Taliban-affiliated Haqqani network raped his wife and killed their infant daughter, one of four children born in captivity. On Sunday, the Taliban released a statement denying Boyle’s claims and stating the infant died of natural causes.
On Tuesday, a Taliban suicide bomber detonated a bomb at a bank not far from the U.S. Embassy in Kabul, killing 5 people. There were also reports that just a day before, air strikes occurred in the Shindand district of Herat Province, killing 13 civilians and 18 Taliban members.
On Saturday, in eastern Afghanistan, an Afghani soldier opened fire on 4 American soldiers, killing 3 and wounding 1. According to Attaullah Khogyani, the spokesman for the governor of Nangarhar Province, the attacker was killed by soldiers at the scene after what had happened. According to a spokesperson for the Taliban, he confirmed that the attacker was a Taliban infiltrator.