Taliban wants positive relationship with India, welcomes New Delhi's contribution in Afghanistan

Ginvincible

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Taliban wants positive relationship with India, welcomes New Delhi's contribution in Afghanistan
Sidhant Sibal May 09, 2020​


In a first, Taliban has said that it would like to have a positive relationship with India and welcomed New Delhi's cooperation in Afghanistan.

Speaking exclusively to our senior correspondent, Taliban's Doha political office spokesperson, Suhail Shaheen said, "Based on our national interest and mutual respect, we would like to have positive relations with neighbouring countries including India and welcome their contribution and cooperation in the reconstruction of future Afghanistan."

He further said, "The Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan is a national Islamic movement of Afghanistan which has been struggling for the emancipation of the country from occupation. We don’t have any agenda beyond our border."

The comments come even as the US is keen that India speaks to the Taliban. US Special Representative for Afghanistan, Zalmay Khalilzad, was in New Delhi last week, the first such visit after the US Taliban deal on February 29 and had spoken about this with India.

During the visit, he called on External Affairs Minister (EAM) S Jaishankar and National Security Advisor (NSA) Ajit Doval and sources on the meet said, "It is clear, New Delhi needs to be part of the process if we need to contribute effectively to the (Afghan) peace process."

Sources said that the talks, which had "level of urgency", had "covered the entire gamut of the situation in Afghanistan. Proposal for the accommodation of different strands of political thoughts was discussed".

Earlier in 2020, terrorists attacked a Gurdwara in Kabul killing more than 25 Afghan Sikhs and the attack was claimed by the Islamic State. The attack also killed an Indian.

India also expressed it deep "concern at the upsurge in violence" and extended it support for "call for an immediate ceasefire" and need to "assist the people of Afghanistan in dealing with coronavirus pandemic".

India also emphasised on the need to "putting an end to terrorist safe havens and sanctuaries" which is necessary for "enduring and sustainable peace and stability in Afghanistan." The US special envoy was accompanied by Senior Director in the US National Security Council Lisa Curtis and the US Ambassador to India Ken Juster.

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Source: DNA India
 
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BMD

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Russia Offered Afghans Bounty to Kill U.S. Troops, Officials Say
Charlie Savage, Eric Schmitt and Michael Schwirtz
The New York Times June 27, 2020, 3:28 PM GMT+1

American troops at Camp Shorabak in Helmand province, Afghanistan, Sept. 26, 2019. (Jim Huylebroek/The New York Times)

American troops at Camp Shorabak in Helmand province, Afghanistan, Sept. 26, 2019. (Jim Huylebroek/The New York Times)
WASHINGTON — American intelligence officials have concluded that a Russian military intelligence unit secretly offered bounties to Taliban-linked militants for killing coalition forces in Afghanistan — including targeting American troops — amid the peace talks to end the long-running war there, according to officials briefed on the matter.
The United States concluded months ago that the Russian unit, which has been linked to assassination attempts and other covert operations in Europe intended to destabilize the West or take revenge on turncoats, had covertly offered rewards for successful attacks last year.
Islamist militants, or armed criminal elements closely associated with them, are believed to have collected some bounty money, the officials said. Twenty Americans were killed in combat in Afghanistan in 2019, but it was not clear which killings were under suspicion.
The intelligence finding was briefed to President Donald Trump, and the White House’s National Security Council discussed the problem at an interagency meeting in late March, the officials said. Officials developed a menu of potential options — starting with making a diplomatic complaint to Moscow and a demand that it stop, along with an escalating series of sanctions and other possible responses, but the White House has yet to authorize any step, the officials said.
An operation to incentivize the killing of American and other NATO troops would be a significant and provocative escalation of what American and Afghan officials have said is Russian support for the Taliban, and it would be the first time the Russian spy unit was known to have orchestrated attacks on Western troops.
Any involvement with the Taliban that resulted in the deaths of American troops would also be a huge escalation of Russia’s so-called hybrid war against the United States, a strategy of destabilizing adversaries through a combination of such tactics as cyberattacks, the spread of fake news, and covert and deniable military operations.
The Kremlin had not been made aware of the accusations, said Dmitry Peskov, press secretary for President Vladimir Putin of Russia. “If someone makes them, we’ll respond,” Peskov said.
Zabihullah Mujahid, a spokesman for the Taliban, denied that the insurgents have “any such relations with any intelligence agency” and called the report an attempt to defame them.
“These kinds of deals with the Russian intelligence agency are baseless — our target killings and assassinations were ongoing in years before, and we did it on our own resources,” he said. “That changed after our deal with the Americans, and their lives are secure and we don’t attack them.”
Spokespeople at the National Security Council, the Pentagon, the State Department and the CIA declined to comment.
The officials familiar with the intelligence did not explain the White House delay in deciding how to respond to the intelligence about Russia.
While some of his closest advisers, like Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, have counseled more hawkish policies toward Russia, Trump has adopted an accommodating stance toward Moscow.
At a summit in Helsinki in 2018, Trump strongly suggested that he believed Putin’s denial that the Kremlin interfered in the 2016 presidential election, despite broad agreement within the U.S. intelligence establishment that it did. Trump criticized a bill imposing sanctions on Russia when he signed it into law after Congress passed it by veto-proof majorities. And he has repeatedly made statements that undermined the NATO alliance as a bulwark against Russian aggression in Europe.
The officials spoke on the condition of anonymity to describe the delicate intelligence and internal deliberations. They said the intelligence has been treated as a closely held secret, but the administration expanded briefings about it this week — including sharing information about it with the British government, whose forces are among those said to have been targeted.
The intelligence assessment is said to be based at least in part on interrogations of captured Afghan militants and criminals. The officials did not describe the mechanics of the Russian operation, such as how targets were picked or how money changed hands. It is also not clear whether Russian operatives had deployed inside Afghanistan or met with their Taliban counterparts elsewhere.
The revelations came into focus inside the Trump administration at a delicate and distracted time. Although officials collected the intelligence earlier in the year, the interagency meeting at the White House took place as the coronavirus pandemic was becoming a crisis and parts of the country were shutting down.
Moreover, as Trump seeks reelection in November, he wants to strike a peace deal with the Taliban to end the Afghanistan War.
Both American and Afghan officials have previously accused Russia of providing small arms and other support to the Taliban that amounts to destabilizing activity, although Russian government officials have dismissed such claims as “idle gossip” and baseless.
“We share some interests with Russia in Afghanistan, and clearly they’re acting to undermine our interests as well,” Gen. John W. Nicholson Jr., commander of American forces in Afghanistan at the time, said in a 2018 interview with the BBC.
Though coalition troops suffered a spate of combat casualties last summer and early fall, only a few have since been killed. Four Americans were killed in combat in early 2020, but the Taliban have not attacked U.S. positions since a February agreement.
American troops have also sharply reduced their movement outside of military bases because of the coronavirus, reducing their exposure to attack.
While officials were said to be confident about the intelligence that Russian operatives offered and paid bounties to Afghan militants for killing Americans, they have greater uncertainty about how high in the Russian government the covert operation was authorized and what its aim may be.
Some officials have theorized that the Russians may be seeking revenge on NATO forces for a 2018 battle in Syria in which the U.S. military killed several hundred pro-Syrian forces, including numerous Russian mercenaries, as they advanced on an American outpost. Officials have also suggested that the Russians may have been trying to derail peace talks to keep the United States bogged down in Afghanistan. But the motivation remains murky.
The officials briefed on the matter said the government had assessed the operation to be the handiwork of Unit 29155, an arm of Russia’s military intelligence agency, known widely as the GRU. The unit is linked to the March 2018 nerve agent poisoning in Salisbury, England, of Sergei Skripal, a former GRU officer who had worked for British intelligence and then defected, and his daughter.
Western intelligence officials say the unit, which has operated for more than a decade, has been charged by the Kremlin with carrying out a campaign to destabilize the West through subversion, sabotage and assassination. In addition to the 2018 poisoning, the unit was behind an attempted coup in Montenegro in 2016 and the poisoning of an arms manufacturer in Bulgaria a year earlier.
American intelligence officials say the GRU was at the center of Moscow’s covert efforts to interfere in the 2016 presidential election. In the months before that election, American officials say, two GRU cyberunits, known as 26165 and 74455, hacked into Democratic Party servers, and then used WikiLeaks to publish embarrassing internal communications.
In part because those efforts were aimed at helping tilt the election in Trump’s favor, Trump’s handling of issues related to Russia and Putin has come under particular scrutiny. The special counsel investigation found that the Trump campaign welcomed Russia’s intervention and expected to benefit from it, but found insufficient evidence to establish that his associates had engaged in any criminal conspiracy with Moscow.
Operations involving Unit 29155 tend to be much more violent than those involving the cyberunits. Its officers are often decorated military veterans with years of service, in some cases dating to the Soviet Union’s failed war in Afghanistan in the 1980s. Never before has the unit been accused of orchestrating attacks on Western soldiers, but officials briefed on its operations say it has been active in Afghanistan for many years.
Though Russia declared the Taliban a terrorist organization in 2003, relations between them have been warming in recent years. Taliban officials have traveled to Moscow for peace talks with other prominent Afghans, including the former president, Hamid Karzai. The talks have excluded representatives from the current Afghan government as well as anyone from the United States and at times have seemed to work at crosscurrents with U.S. efforts to bring an end to the conflict.
The disclosure comes at a time when Trump has said he would invite Putin to an expanded meeting of the Group of Seven nations, but tensions between U.S. and Russian militaries are running high.
In several recent episodes, in international territory and airspace from off the coast of Alaska to the Black and Mediterranean seas, combat planes from each country has scrambled to intercept military aircraft from the other.
 

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Russia Offered Afghans Bounty to Kill U.S. Troops, Officials Say
Charlie Savage, Eric Schmitt and Michael Schwirtz
The New York Times June 27, 2020, 3:28 PM GMT+1

American troops at Camp Shorabak in Helmand province, Afghanistan, Sept. 26, 2019. (Jim Huylebroek/The New York Times)

American troops at Camp Shorabak in Helmand province, Afghanistan, Sept. 26, 2019. (Jim Huylebroek/The New York Times)
WASHINGTON — American intelligence officials have concluded that a Russian military intelligence unit secretly offered bounties to Taliban-linked militants for killing coalition forces in Afghanistan — including targeting American troops — amid the peace talks to end the long-running war there, according to officials briefed on the matter.
The United States concluded months ago that the Russian unit, which has been linked to assassination attempts and other covert operations in Europe intended to destabilize the West or take revenge on turncoats, had covertly offered rewards for successful attacks last year.
Islamist militants, or armed criminal elements closely associated with them, are believed to have collected some bounty money, the officials said. Twenty Americans were killed in combat in Afghanistan in 2019, but it was not clear which killings were under suspicion.
The intelligence finding was briefed to President Donald Trump, and the White House’s National Security Council discussed the problem at an interagency meeting in late March, the officials said. Officials developed a menu of potential options — starting with making a diplomatic complaint to Moscow and a demand that it stop, along with an escalating series of sanctions and other possible responses, but the White House has yet to authorize any step, the officials said.
An operation to incentivize the killing of American and other NATO troops would be a significant and provocative escalation of what American and Afghan officials have said is Russian support for the Taliban, and it would be the first time the Russian spy unit was known to have orchestrated attacks on Western troops.
Any involvement with the Taliban that resulted in the deaths of American troops would also be a huge escalation of Russia’s so-called hybrid war against the United States, a strategy of destabilizing adversaries through a combination of such tactics as cyberattacks, the spread of fake news, and covert and deniable military operations.
The Kremlin had not been made aware of the accusations, said Dmitry Peskov, press secretary for President Vladimir Putin of Russia. “If someone makes them, we’ll respond,” Peskov said.
Zabihullah Mujahid, a spokesman for the Taliban, denied that the insurgents have “any such relations with any intelligence agency” and called the report an attempt to defame them.
“These kinds of deals with the Russian intelligence agency are baseless — our target killings and assassinations were ongoing in years before, and we did it on our own resources,” he said. “That changed after our deal with the Americans, and their lives are secure and we don’t attack them.”
Spokespeople at the National Security Council, the Pentagon, the State Department and the CIA declined to comment.
The officials familiar with the intelligence did not explain the White House delay in deciding how to respond to the intelligence about Russia.
While some of his closest advisers, like Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, have counseled more hawkish policies toward Russia, Trump has adopted an accommodating stance toward Moscow.
At a summit in Helsinki in 2018, Trump strongly suggested that he believed Putin’s denial that the Kremlin interfered in the 2016 presidential election, despite broad agreement within the U.S. intelligence establishment that it did. Trump criticized a bill imposing sanctions on Russia when he signed it into law after Congress passed it by veto-proof majorities. And he has repeatedly made statements that undermined the NATO alliance as a bulwark against Russian aggression in Europe.
The officials spoke on the condition of anonymity to describe the delicate intelligence and internal deliberations. They said the intelligence has been treated as a closely held secret, but the administration expanded briefings about it this week — including sharing information about it with the British government, whose forces are among those said to have been targeted.
The intelligence assessment is said to be based at least in part on interrogations of captured Afghan militants and criminals. The officials did not describe the mechanics of the Russian operation, such as how targets were picked or how money changed hands. It is also not clear whether Russian operatives had deployed inside Afghanistan or met with their Taliban counterparts elsewhere.
The revelations came into focus inside the Trump administration at a delicate and distracted time. Although officials collected the intelligence earlier in the year, the interagency meeting at the White House took place as the coronavirus pandemic was becoming a crisis and parts of the country were shutting down.
Moreover, as Trump seeks reelection in November, he wants to strike a peace deal with the Taliban to end the Afghanistan War.
Both American and Afghan officials have previously accused Russia of providing small arms and other support to the Taliban that amounts to destabilizing activity, although Russian government officials have dismissed such claims as “idle gossip” and baseless.
“We share some interests with Russia in Afghanistan, and clearly they’re acting to undermine our interests as well,” Gen. John W. Nicholson Jr., commander of American forces in Afghanistan at the time, said in a 2018 interview with the BBC.
Though coalition troops suffered a spate of combat casualties last summer and early fall, only a few have since been killed. Four Americans were killed in combat in early 2020, but the Taliban have not attacked U.S. positions since a February agreement.
American troops have also sharply reduced their movement outside of military bases because of the coronavirus, reducing their exposure to attack.
While officials were said to be confident about the intelligence that Russian operatives offered and paid bounties to Afghan militants for killing Americans, they have greater uncertainty about how high in the Russian government the covert operation was authorized and what its aim may be.
Some officials have theorized that the Russians may be seeking revenge on NATO forces for a 2018 battle in Syria in which the U.S. military killed several hundred pro-Syrian forces, including numerous Russian mercenaries, as they advanced on an American outpost. Officials have also suggested that the Russians may have been trying to derail peace talks to keep the United States bogged down in Afghanistan. But the motivation remains murky.
The officials briefed on the matter said the government had assessed the operation to be the handiwork of Unit 29155, an arm of Russia’s military intelligence agency, known widely as the GRU. The unit is linked to the March 2018 nerve agent poisoning in Salisbury, England, of Sergei Skripal, a former GRU officer who had worked for British intelligence and then defected, and his daughter.
Western intelligence officials say the unit, which has operated for more than a decade, has been charged by the Kremlin with carrying out a campaign to destabilize the West through subversion, sabotage and assassination. In addition to the 2018 poisoning, the unit was behind an attempted coup in Montenegro in 2016 and the poisoning of an arms manufacturer in Bulgaria a year earlier.
American intelligence officials say the GRU was at the center of Moscow’s covert efforts to interfere in the 2016 presidential election. In the months before that election, American officials say, two GRU cyberunits, known as 26165 and 74455, hacked into Democratic Party servers, and then used WikiLeaks to publish embarrassing internal communications.
In part because those efforts were aimed at helping tilt the election in Trump’s favor, Trump’s handling of issues related to Russia and Putin has come under particular scrutiny. The special counsel investigation found that the Trump campaign welcomed Russia’s intervention and expected to benefit from it, but found insufficient evidence to establish that his associates had engaged in any criminal conspiracy with Moscow.
Operations involving Unit 29155 tend to be much more violent than those involving the cyberunits. Its officers are often decorated military veterans with years of service, in some cases dating to the Soviet Union’s failed war in Afghanistan in the 1980s. Never before has the unit been accused of orchestrating attacks on Western soldiers, but officials briefed on its operations say it has been active in Afghanistan for many years.
Though Russia declared the Taliban a terrorist organization in 2003, relations between them have been warming in recent years. Taliban officials have traveled to Moscow for peace talks with other prominent Afghans, including the former president, Hamid Karzai. The talks have excluded representatives from the current Afghan government as well as anyone from the United States and at times have seemed to work at crosscurrents with U.S. efforts to bring an end to the conflict.
The disclosure comes at a time when Trump has said he would invite Putin to an expanded meeting of the Group of Seven nations, but tensions between U.S. and Russian militaries are running high.
In several recent episodes, in international territory and airspace from off the coast of Alaska to the Black and Mediterranean seas, combat planes from each country has scrambled to intercept military aircraft from the other.
Yahoo.com? Really Paddy ? As if the Taliban need any incentive to kill US servicemen. And the Russians are wealthy enough to announce bounties eh Paddy? Besides this thread was about the Taliban outreach to India. Take the weekend off, you oaf.
 
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BMD

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Yahoo.com? Really Paddy ? As if the Taliban need any incentive to kill US servicemen. And the Russians are wealthy enough to announce bounties eh Paddy? Besides this thread was about the Taliban outreach to India. Take the weekend off, you oaf.
Nothing if you want to be friends with terrorists.
 

Ginvincible

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The optimist in me wants to believe that the Doha talks will result in some meaningful and lasting peace, but the cynical realist understands that they are just a face saving measure by the US and Afghan government until an eventual Taliban takeover. Perhaps the Taliban will return peacefully through elections rather than military conquest. Hopefully the Taliban will become somewhat reasonable actors and not sponsor terror against other nations.
 

RISING SUN

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It was a mistake not to invite India to Moscow talks, says Afghan Foreign Minister​

In an unexpected move, Afghanistan’s President Ashraf Ghani has offered a counter proposal to the U.S. plan for peace, suggesting that if the Taliban declares a ceasefire and participates in elections, he would be prepared to hold early elections and hand over power to a new government. In an interview to The Hindu, Afghan Foreign Minister Haneef Atmar confirmed that he had reached out to the Indian leadership with the proposal this week, making it clear that Afghanistan believes India has an important role in the future Afghan reconciliation process.

During your meetings in Delhi, with National Security Advisor Mr. Doval and External Affairs Minister, Dr. S. Jaishankar, you have spoken about a new peace proposal that President Ghani is suggesting. What was the Indian reaction to that?​

This is part of the commitment of the government of Afghanistan to the peace process — that we have been looking at ways in which the opposition (Taliban) could be encouraged to participate in the legitimate political process rather than resorting to violence against their own people. The President took a bold step, and said, if the Taliban agrees to a political settlement, support the idea of elections — free and fair elections, the President will be ready to hold early Presidential elections in which the Taliban would participate and a new Government of Afghanistan can be elected by the Afghan people. Now, this is to be appreciated as the biggest sacrifice of an elected leader who is putting the interest of the Afghan people first. And he makes it his mission to bring peace to Afghanistan no matter what it might mean.

But is it a realistic proposal, given that there is talks with the Taliban in Doha, and we still haven't seen a ceasefire, let alone the idea that Taliban might actually consider joining the political mainstream, standing for elections? Is this offer real or rhetorical?​

It is a real one. Because the first issue for the Taliban was that they're fighting because of the presence of foreign troops. There has been a peace agreement between the Taliban and the United States, and there is an agreement on the departure of foreign troops, but also a commitment from the Taliban on expulsion of the foreign fighters that fight alongside the Taliban. So that was issue number one. The world is expecting the two sides to sort of deliver on their mutual obligations.
https://www.thehindu.com/news/natio...s-afghan-foreign-minister/article34144165.ece

Issue number two was, for them to reach a political settlement with the rest of the Afghans. Now for that, elections are a must. It is what the Afghan people want. And it is the legitimate way for Afghan free political will to be expressed. Now, the Taliban has both of these at the table, the departure of foreign troops and a legitimate way to participate in the polity and governance of Afghanistan. It's up to them now, whether they want to reject a peaceful way of ending this conflict, or continue to stick to violence as a means to acquire power.

The U.S. proposal, as outlined by U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken, was about power-sharing talks, about the possibility of an interim government, and not elections. Is President Ghani rejecting the U.S. offer?​

Well the U.S. has clearly said that this is not their proposal, per se, and that it is a discussion paper to stimulate debate and to contribute to the peace process. The government of Afghanistan has demonstrated its sincerity that it has a proposal along the lines of more or less what has been proposed by him and international circles for the inclusion of the Taliban in the political process. So let me look at the essential elements here. Element number one is a peaceful settlement. Number two, reduction in violence and ceasefire. And number three, a legitimate way for reintegration.
Now, some people would argue that a transitional government may be a means for reintegration. Others would say that undermining that constitutional process will remove legitimacy from any formula that might allow the two sides to participate. So the best way forward is to respect the constitution, accept the offer of an honourable way to respect the free will of the Afghan people.

What was New Delhi’s response to this proposal?​

New Delhi is a very good friend, and has always been supportive for the position of the Afghan people. They stand by the Afghan government, especially for peace and preservation of the gains of the past two decades. This is very important for the Afghan people to feel that we have a friend who's standing by us. India has demonstrated that not only politically, but also as I said, as one of the biggest donors to Afghanistan. India says that anything leading to a peaceful settlement and achieving the end state that is acceptable to the Afghan people, would be acceptable to India. So we thank them again, because as a good friend, they always show the kind of understanding that is unique.

But unlike every other country that is involved in this process, India has not opened talks with the Taliban …Is that something the Ghani government wants?​

India's position was quite clear that they support a peace process — an Afghan-owned, Afghan-led and Afghan-controlled peace process. So, if the Taliban comes and joins a legitimate government of Afghanistan, India would work with them. India's policy of working on condition of support for the peace is extremely important. And we very much appreciate that.

Was there a discussion about the India-Pakistan peace process or the signs of engagement witnessed in the past few weeks?​

First of all, cooperation between India and Afghanistan is just about our bilateral issues. We keep other issues out of this process. Of course, our regional international cooperation is also part of our common interests. We always welcome dialogue as a means to resolving challenges and problems. India has grown as a regional power and an international, responsible actor. So their engagement for a peaceful resolution of conflicts is very well appreciated across the globe. And I hope that these responsible gestures are met with reciprocity.

You have called for a larger role for India in the regional process. And yet we find again and again, India is cut out of different forums for talks, most recently in Moscow, where the extended Troika met practically everyone, but India was not given an invitation. What is the major obstacle to India's position in this regional process?​

That was a mistake, not to invite India to Moscow, and we made it clear [to the organisers] that peace and stability in our region and regional connectivity and prosperity cannot happen without India. So it will be important for countries to think strategically, and to ensure that India's cooperation and goodwill that has been there for the entire region should be seriously translated into mutual cooperation.
I would strongly suggest to all my international partners, that it is the desire of the Afghan people to have the strong presence of India, in the process of peace-making and also peace sustaining. Even if a peace agreement is really possible, who is going to support the implementation of that peace? Of all the major nations around Afghanistan, India has been one of the most generous, so it is in the best interest of the region, to have a generous player in the process.

India has been part of development assistance, as well as helping with the constitution election process in Afghanistan. Have you at any point asked for India's help in peacekeeping? In other words for Indian security assistance on the ground in Afghanistan?​

No, we have not, because we strongly believe that India's goodwill and resources of generosity will be best utilised in terms of peace, stability, reconstruction and development in Afghanistan.

Is there something India and Afghanistan can work on together that will ensure that not only the Constitution, but the electoral process, the rights of minorities and women, that have been enshrined in the last few years are retained?​

Absolutely. We do not have many red flags. But we do have one red line — that it will be impossible for Afghan people to reverse the progress we've made in terms of democracy, human rights, women's empowerment and participation, free media, a democratic way of governance and holding leaders [accountable]. Those are the things that the Afghan people would not want to lose. So for that reason, there will be no compromise on those critical rights.