US-Taliban peace talks collapsed earlier this month as a deal seemed imminent to end America's longest war. File photo
As Afghans await the results of a presidential election roiled by Taliban threats, the government used its platform at the UN General Assembly on Monday to tell the insurgents: "Join us in peace, or we will continue to fight."
Afghanistan was not the only country sending a message: North Korea had one for the United States, saying it was up to Washington whether now-stalled nuclear negotiations "become a window of opportunity or an occasion that will hasten the crisis."
And even in the final hour of this year's UN gathering of world leaders, Iran and Saudi Arabia traded barbs sharpened by a recent missile and drone strike on major Saudi oil facilities.
Monday's speeches wrapped up a meeting marked by global worries over the rising tensions in the Persian Gulf region , the changing climate and the very future of the idea of large-scale international cooperation that the UN represents.
As General Assembly President Tijjani Muhammad-Bande put it in his closing remarks, "The world will not survive for long unless we cultivate the give-and-take spirit" of multilateralism.
Afghanistan's national security adviser, Hamdullah Mohib, spoke two days after his countrymen voted in a presidential election in which hundreds of polling centers weren't opened because the country couldn't secure them against the Taliban. The militants control or hold sway over roughly half the country and warned voters not to go to the polls.
Results of the elections aren't due for weeks.
Mohib trumpeted the democratic commitment of Afghans who voted despite the threats — some despite having had fingers cut off by the Taliban during prior elections, he noted.
In a country where a new generation of leaders has grown up in wartime, "the opportunities afforded to us through the gains of the past 20 years have allowed us to change hope into something much more powerful — belief," Mobib said.
"We believe in our abilities to bring about the peace we have hoped for all our lives."
The path is far from clear. US-Taliban peace talks collapsed earlier this month as a deal seemed imminent to end America's longest war. It began in 2001 as a US effort to dislodge Afghanistan's then-ruling Taliban for harboring Al Qaeda leader and 9/11 mastermind Osama Bin Laden.
The Afghan government had been sidelined in the talks; the Taliban refused to talk directly with an administration the insurgents see as a US puppet.
A provincial council member from Badakhshan told the local media reporters that after the Taliban capture of Faizabad — the capital of the northeastern province of Badakhshan — after a long battle, government forces retreated to a neighbouring district, Jawad Mujadidi.
Afghan government forces battled Taliban fighters in and around several cities on Thursday, officials said, as the militants pressed on with their offensive that US intelligence believes could see them take over the capital, Kabul, within 90 days.
Stakes are high for the talks which follow a week of US-Taliban negotiations with both sides eyeing a resolution to the bloody 18-year conflict.
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