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Taliban allowed ICRC to resume activities in Afghanistan

12 October, 2018

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ISLAMABAD: Afghan Taliban said on Thursday that they had allowed the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) to resume activities in Afghanistan after the aid agency addressed their reservations in talks in Qatar.

The Taliban announced in August that they would not allow safe passage to Red Cross staff working in Afghanistan because of their “failure to check maltreatment” of prisoners in the infamous Pul-i-Charkhi jail.

“The ICRC and the Taliban officials held two-day talks in Doha, Qatar, and discussed the reservations of the Islamic Emirate. The ICRC officials promised positive measures regarding the Taliban reservations and both sides reached an agreement on the activities of the ICRC in Afghanistan,” Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said. Taliban call themselves as the Islamic Emirate, the name they would use during their 1996-2001 rule.

Taliban have restored their security commitment with the ICRC and directed all members to pave the way for the ICRC’s smooth activities across Afghanistan and also to protect its staffers and goods, Mujahid said in a statement.

Taliban earlier said hundreds of their prisoners had been languishing in Pul-i-Charkhi jail but the ICRC demonstrated “blatant negligence” and failed to take notice of hunger strike by thousands of inmates in August.

A Taliban official had earlier told reporters that the meeting with the ICRS was only limited to the issue of prisoners and had nothing to do with peace negotiations.

“The ICRC has been seeking meeting with the Islamic Emirate to solve the problem. These are routine meetings to explore ways on how to facilitate foreign aid agencies in areas under the control of the Islamic Emirate,” he said, requesting not to be identified.

Taliban had alleged that hundreds of prisoners had gone into coma in jail in August and their lives were severely threatened but the ICRC did not address their concerns.

“The International Red Cross has neither made any arrangements to treat the prisoners nor provided proper medical care to patients. Therefore, the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan announces the withdrawal of security commitment that had given to the International Red Cross for their activities in Afghanistan,” the Taliban had said last month.

Taliban sources earlier said that release of prisoners was also one of the issues during their talks with the Americans in Qatar.

Representatives of the Taliban office and senior US officials met in July in their first meeting that mainly focused on confidence building measures and the possible agenda for the official talks.

Removal of the Taliban leaders from the UN Security Council’s sanctions list and reopening of the Taliban office were also among agenda items, according to the Taliban.

A second meeting was scheduled to take place in September; however, a Taliban official said the meeting could not take place apparently due to the appointment of Zamlay Khalilzad as special representative for Afghanistan reconciliation, who will now supervise the dialogue with the Taliban.

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