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Afghan President Warns Of 'Serious Challenges' To Peace Process

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Afghan President Ashraf Ghani (file photo)

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani has warned that a spike in violence by militants in the country poses a "serious" threat to the peace process with the Taliban.

Speaking on July 6 during an online conference aimed at briefing the international community on the expected talks with the militant group, Ghani said the current level of violence was higher compared with last year even though preparations are being made for peace talks.

"If the Taliban continues fighting, the Afghan peace process will face serious challenges," Ghani told online attendees.

Afghan authorities and the Taliban are preparing to engage in direct negotiations aimed at putting an end to the nearly two-decade-old war in Afghanistan.

But Afghan officials have blamed the Taliban for killing hundreds of security personnel and civilians in recent weeks, following a three-day cease-fire at the end of May.

The Taliban has denied responsibility for many attacks but has acknowledged targeting Afghan security forces in rural areas.

Officials said on July 7 that a suicide car bombing in the eastern province of Nangarhar killed a police commander and his two bodyguards.

No one immediately claimed responsibility for the attack in the Kuz Kunar district.

Both the Taliban and the Islamic State extremist group are active in Nangarhar Province.

The videoconference was attended by senior Afghan officials, as well as representatives of more than 20 other countries, including the United States, Russia, Pakistan, India, Iran, China, Qatar, Kazakhstan, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, and Azerbaijan. International organizations such as the United Nations also participated..

Ghani will host two other videoconferences later this week.

The Western-backed government in Kabul has released more than 4,000 Taliban prisoners as part of a deal between the militants and Washington that was signed in February. The Taliban has so far released about 750 government prisoners.

Under the U.S.-Taliban accord, the United States agreed to reduce its forces in Afghanistan from 12,000 troops to 8,600 by mid-July. If the rest of the deal goes through, all U.S. and other foreign troops will exit Afghanistan by mid-2021.

With reporting by AFP, AP, and dpa
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