Blinken presses Afghan president to accelerate peace talks, condemns Taliban attacks

Blinken presses Afghan president to accelerate peace talks, condemns Taliban attacks
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Secretary of State Antony BlinkenAntony BlinkenOvernight Defense & National Security: US-Australian sub deal causes rift with France Oversight Republicans seek testimony from Afghanistan watchdog France cancels DC gala in anger over Biden sub deal: report MORE on Tuesday urged Afghan President Ashraf Ghani to accelerate peace talks with the Taliban and condemned recent attacks by the militant group, which is quickly making gains in the region.

Blinken, who spoke with Ghani by phone, “emphasized the need to accelerate peace negotiations and achieve a political settlement that is inclusive, respects the rights of all Afghans, including women and minorities, allows the Afghan people to have a say in choosing their leaders, and prevents Afghan soil from being used to threaten the United States and its allies and partners,” State Department spokesman Ned Price said in a statement.

“Both leaders condemned the ongoing Taliban attacks, which show little regard for human life and human rights, and deplored the loss of innocent Afghan lives and displacement of the civilian population," Price added.

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The call comes a day after Blinken called recent reports of atrocities committed by the Taliban “deeply disturbing and totally unacceptable.”

Attacks by the Taliban on civilians have grown so violent, the U.S. Embassy in Kabul earlier this week accused the group of committing war crimes.

And the United Nations reported last week that civilian deaths have been on the rise in Afghanistan, with the number of people killed in May and June on par with the casualties suffered in the previous four months.

Peace talks, meanwhile, have largely stalled between the Afghani government and the Taliban as the insurgent group has made considerable gains in the country amid the United States withdrawal of troops.

But the Taliban, which on Tuesday took control of nine of the 10 districts in the Helmand provincial capital, are reportedly showing little interest in talks while they are seizing areas.

Blinken on Monday warned the group that it risks complete international isolation if it continues its offensive and ignores the negotiations.

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“The Taliban has repeatedly said that they seek in the future a number of things: international recognition, international support; they want their leaders to be able to travel freely around the world; they would like sanctions lifted on them. And none of those things are going to be possible if the Taliban seeks to take the country by force and commits the kind of atrocities that have been reported,” Blinken said at a State Department briefing.

Ghani, meanwhile, has blamed the U.S.’s “sudden” decision to withdraw troops from the region for the worsening security situation in the country.

The United States’ pullout is now more than 95 percent complete, and all troops are set to be out of the country by Aug. 31.