19:07 GMT20 September 2020
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    US President Donald Trump last week cancelled secret meetings with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani and Taliban leaders following a car bomb attack in Kabul.

    The Afghan government is halting peaceful settlement efforts until the presidential election scheduled for 28 September, the country's 1TV News has reported, quoting the president's spokesman Sediq Sediqqi. 

    Sediqqi said that holding the elections is a priority and that the peace talks with the Taliban will be resumed after the vote. He confirmed that the election will be held on time and rejected the idea of forming an interim government.  

    "Those who call for the creation of an interim government in Afghanistan oppose the republican system and the Afghan people," Sediqqi said during a press conference in Kabul.

    Possible Reason for Suspending Peace Talks

    According to Shuja Nawaz, Distinguished Fellow at the South Asia Center of the Atlantic Council, US, it is not surprising that the Afghan government wishes to avoid joining talks with the Taliban before the scheduled elections. By doing so it bypasses the issue of facing Taliban proxies in the elections. However, it is uncertain if credible elections can even take place if large swathes of territory are occupied or threatened by the Taliban, affecting not only the very vote but any campaigning prior to a vote.

    "The Taliban have the advantage of increasingly being seen as a united front against the Afghan government. Meanwhile, the Afghan government is riven by mistrust and competing candidates for the presidency," Nawaz said.

    It is unclear what role the US and Coalition forces will play during this period. They are not enough to provide cover for the elections against a rampant Taliban. If they suffer more casualties, President Trump might be encouraged to further accelerate his military withdrawal, the expert added.

    Afghan soldiers gather at a street in Kunduz on August 31, 2019. - Afghan security forces "repelled" a coordinated Taliban assault on the northern city of Kunduz on August 31, President Ashraf Ghani said, amid competing claims from the insurgents.

    Afghanistan's independent election commission announced in March that the presidential election would be held on 28 September 2019. The Taliban, which has been fighting a long-running insurgency in the country, threatened to undermine the vote. UN General Secretary's envoy expressed his concern that the Taliban could target civilians taking part in the election.

    There are 18 candidates for the post of president, including Ashraf Ghani and Abdullah Abdullah, who were major rivals in the 2014 vote.

    Last weekend US President Donald Trump cancelled secret talks with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani and Taliban leaders at the Camp David presidential retreat following a car bomb attack in Kabul, in which a US soldier was killed. Commenting on the issue, Trump said that talks with the Taliban aimed at ending the 18-year war in Afghanistan were "dead".

    Donald Trump, United States, presidential election, Taliban, Afghanistan
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