Afghan government ready for early polls to attain peace

By Shadi Khan Saif

KABUL, Afghanistan (AA) – The Afghan government is ready for early elections for the sake of the peace process with the Taliban, Foreign Minister Haneef Atmar said Tuesday in New Delhi.

Addressing a news conference in the Indian capital, Atmar said the proposed elections could be held in the presence of international observers. He said the Taliban would have to accept the polls as a legitimate way for the transfer of power and a political settlement.

“If the Taliban accepts a political settlement that is acceptable to the Afghan people, and if they agree to have elections as a legitimate means for the transfer of power and responsibility, then he [President Ashraf Ghani] is ready to hold early presidential elections. This means that he will not wait until the end of his term,” Atmar said.

The local Etilat-e-Roz daily in Afghanistan has reported that Ghani was likely to float the idea of early elections at the forthcoming Istanbul peace conference. It said that according to the proposed peace plan, a six-month truce would be called ahead of polls for the top seat.

US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin visited Kabul on Sunday to meet with Ghani days ahead of the key international peace conference on Afghanistan in Turkey.

On his maiden trip to Afghanistan upon taking charge, Austin assured Kabul of Washington's support, said the statement.

"I’m very grateful for my time with President @ashrafghani today. I came to Afghanistan to listen and learn. This visit has been very helpful for me, and it will inform my participation in the review we are undergoing here with @POTUS," he tweeted.

On March 18, Russia, the US, China and Pakistan — the expanded “troika” on the Afghan settlement — held a meeting in Moscow on Afghanistan. In a joint statement afterwards, they urged all parties "to reduce the level of violence” and called on the Taliban to abandon plans for a Spring offensive.

Pressing the warring factions in Afghanistan to reach a negotiated political settlement, the Moscow conference endorsed UN Security Council resolution 2513 (2020), which opposed the restoration of the ‘Islamic Emirate’ (Taliban regime) in Afghanistan.

This came ahead of the key international peace conference on Afghanistan in Turkey. The Turkish Foreign Ministry has expressed its readiness to host the conference in April in a bid to help with the peaceful settlement of the conflict in Afghanistan.