Afghan peace process: Taliban reaffirm commitment to United States deal

Afghan officials had previously blamed the Taliban for the explosions in the Sangin district of Helmand province. — Reuters  File

Afghan officials had previously blamed the Taliban for the explosions in the Sangin district of Helmand province. — Reuters File

The Baradar-Pompeo conference came amid USA media reports that American intelligence had briefed President Donald Trump about Taliban-linked fighters collecting bounties from Russian Federation to attack foreign troops in Afghanistan.

However, there was apparently no mention during the call of allegations that some Taliban fighters received money to kill U.S. and North Atlantic Treaty Organisation soldiers in Afghanistan.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has warned Afghanistan's Taliban against attacks on Americans, the State Department said Tuesday, amid outrage over alleged Russian bounties to target US troops.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has spoken with the Taliban's chief negotiator, a spokesman for the armed group said, amid controversy in Washington over reports that President Donald Trump knew Russian Federation had paid the Taliban bounties to kill US troops.

Trump has denied being informed of the assessment and the White House said Monday that the information had been kept from him because the intelligence underpinning it was unverified, marking an unusual move since it is rare for intelligence to be proven without any doubt before presenting it to senior government officials.

That month, the United States had pledged to withdraw all its troops from Afghanistan by mid-2021 in return for security guarantees in a bid to pave the way for negotiations between warring sides.

The New York Times reported last week that US intelligence officials concluded months ago that Russian military intelligence offered bounties to Taliban-linked militants to kill USA troops.

Subsequent reports by The New York Times and Washington Post reported several American soldiers may have died previous year as a result of the bounties.

Trump has insisted that he was not briefed but lawmakers of the rival Democratic Party and even some Republicans have demanded further explanations.

Shaheen tweeted that Pompeo and Baradar discussed the "implementation of the agreement, foreign troop withdrawal, prisoner release, start of intra-Afghan dialogue and reduction in (military) operations".

The call comes as the US peace envoy, Zalmay Khalilzad, is touring the region in efforts to advance the deal.

The US Embassy in Kabul did not immediately issue a statement. Afghanistan's dilapidated health system is grappling with the pandemic, with the number of infections thought to far outnumber the official tally of over 31,000 cases, including 733 deaths.

Increasing violence and a contentious prisoner swap between the Afghan government and the Taliban have delayed talks that were to have begun in March between the insurgent group and a team mandated by Kabul.

In particular, USA officials are investigating an April 2019 attack on an American convoy near Bagram Airfield, the largest US military installation in Afghanistan.

Meanwhile, the U.S. -Taliban deal is at a critical stage at a time violence in Afghanistan has continued since a three-day cease-fire at the end of May.

But the prisoner releases have been marked by delays.

Baradar complained about new Afghan military checkpoints in areas under Taliban control while Pompeo said Washington wanted to see a reduction in violence, according to the tweet. The Afghan National Security Council said June 30 that, since February, the Taliban had on average staged 44 attacks per day on Afghan security forces.

The Afghan government said a powerful bomb and mortar fire by the Taliban caused the deaths.

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