An Afghan insurgent group says differences over the presence of U.S.-led international troops in Afghanistan have left its peace talks with the government deadlocked.
The Hezb-i-Islami (HIA) faction led by fugitive former warlord Gulbuddin Hekmatyar has accused Afghan negotiators of unilaterally altering certain provisions in the peace deal the two sides had drafted after weeks of intense negotiations.
The government gave in to U.S. pressure and made changes to passages in the original agreement that dealt with the future of foreign troops in Afghanistan, the group alleged through an article in its Daily Shahadat magazine.
The original draft, according to HIA, stated both sides supported the idea of "having no foreign troops" in the country and vowed to deal with the violence through national unity. But the amended draft added, "Both sides supported the presence of foreign forces in accordance with the bilateral security pacts for strengthening national solidarity in the interest of the country.”
The changes are unacceptable to the group, but President Ashraf Ghani’s government wanted it to sign the new document for the peace process to be carried forward, which prompted the suspension of talks, according to the insurgents.
An Afghan government official requesting anonymity confirmed to VOA the talks have been suspended. But he said Kabul is still awaiting a formal response from Hekmatyar’s group to be able to release an official reaction on the issue.
Hekmatyar has reportedly come up with new demands, including cancellation of security pacts Kabul has signed with Washington and NATO allowing them to continue with their military missions, and a public timetable for withdrawal of foreign troops from Afghanistan.
Certain counterproposals were recently delivered to Ghani through a letter, but were rejected, the group said in its Monday announcement.
Afghan government peace negotiators in response called the security pacts “a red line that we cannot cross," according to HIA.
The negotiations generated hopes for a peace deal that would bring political stability to President Ghani’s rule and put pressure on the main Taliban insurgency to come to the table to end the Afghan war through peaceful talks.
Designated a "global terrorist" by the United States, Hekmatyar is allegedly sheltering in neighboring Pakistan.
Hekmatyar’s fighters have been waging the insurgency alongside the Taliban, although his influence is mainly confined to some eastern and northeastern Afghan regions.
Deadly clashes between the Hezb-i-Islami and Taliban are not uncommon when one side tries to step into the other’s territory of influence.