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Pakistan Announces Cancellation of Afghan Peace Conference Amid Row Over Support to Taliban

An Afghan National Army (ANA) soldier salutes locals riding on a motorbike outside Bagram Air Base, after all US and NATO troops left, some 70 Km north of Kabul on July 2, 2021.

An Afghan National Army (ANA) soldier salutes locals riding on a motorbike outside Bagram Air Base, after all US and NATO troops left, some 70 Km north of Kabul on July 2, 2021.

The conference was originally scheduled from July 17 to 19 in Islamabad and was to be attended by a number of high-ranking Afghan leaders.

A three-day conference on peace in Afghanistan, which was to be hosted by Pakistan from Saturday, has been postponed till Eid al-Adha, officials said on Friday, amidst escalating violence in the war-torn country and trading of barbs between Kabul and Islamabad over alleged support to Taliban militants. The conference was originally scheduled from July 17 to 19 in Islamabad and was to be attended by a number of high-ranking Afghan leaders.

Taliban leaders were not invited. “The Afghan Peace Conference scheduled to be held in Islamabad from 17-19 July 2021 has been postponed until after Eid Al-Adha. The new dates of the said Conference will be announced later, the Pakistan Foreign Office said in a short statement. This year Eid Al-Adha will be celebrated on July 21.

The cancellation was announced as the Foreign Office in another statement rejected the remarks made by Afghanistan Vice President Amrullah Saleh that the Pakistan Air Force was providing air support to the Taliban militants in the border areas of Chaman and Spin Boldak. Fierce fighting has been going on for the last few days between the Afghan forces and the Taliban in Spin Boldak town of Kandahar.

The Taliban militants have seized dozens of districts in recent weeks and are now thought to control about a third of the country, ahead of the complete withdrawal of US and Western troops from Afghanistan by September 11. Afghanistan President Ashraf Ghani, speaking at a conference in Uzbekistan capital Tashkent on Friday, attacked the Pakistan government, saying Islamabad was fomenting violence in Afghanistan. Ghani said over 10,000 jihadi fighters had crossed over from Pakistan to his country in the last month. Further, Ghani said Taliban militants are treated in Pakistani hospitals after clashes with Afghan troops.

Earlier on Thursday, Afghanistan Vice President Saleh had tweeted: “Pakistan air force has issued (an) official warning to the Afghan Army and Air Force that any move to dislodge the Taliban from Spin Boldak area will be faced and repelled by the Pakistan Air Force. Pak air force is now providing close air support to Taliban in certain areas." (sic) The Pakistan Foreign Office has categorically denied the charges. “We remain committed to peace in Afghanistan and shall continue to endeavour towards this end irrespective of the detractors," the FO said on Friday.

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first published:July 16, 2021, 20:50 IST