Fri, Mar 02, 2018 - Page 6 News List

Taliban cool on Ghani’s invitation to peace talks

STICKING POINT:The Taliban has said that it is prepared to enter direct talks with the US, but has made no mention of negotiating with the Afghan government

Reuters and AFP, KABUL

The Taliban yesterday issued a cool response to proposals that they should begin peace talks with the Afghan government, a day after Afghan President Ashraf Ghani offered a pact to recognize the insurgents as a legitimate party in negotiations.

The movement has not yet given any formal answer to Ghani’s invitation, made at a conference of officials from countries in the so-called Kabul Process aimed at creating a platform for talks to end more than 16 years of war.

However, its chief spokesman did reply to an “Open Letter” published on Tuesday in the New Yorker magazine by Barnett Rubin, a respected commentator on Afghan politics, who urged the Taliban to accept talks with the Kabul government.

Rubin’s article was written as a response to an open letter to the American people that the Taliban released, in several languages, on Feb. 14, calling on them to demand an end the conflict in Afghanistan and to reject “the inexperienced policies of [US] president [Donald] Trump and his war-monger advisors.”

“Our country has been occupied, which has led to an American-style supposed Afghan government being imposed upon us,” the Taliban response said.

“And your view that we talk to them and accept their legitimacy is the same formula adopted by America to win the war,” it said, adding that the Kabul Process was simply aimed at seeking the “surrender” of the Taliban.

The comments come a month after the Taliban claimed responsibility for an attack in which an ambulance packed with explosives blew up in Kabul, killing about 100 people, in the worst attack seen in months.

As part of its new regional strategy announced last year, the US has stepped up assistance to the Afghan military and greatly increased air strikes against the Taliban, in a bid to break the stalemate and force the insurgents to the negotiating table.

The Taliban have themselves twice offered to talk to the US in recent weeks, but have ruled out talks with the Kabul government, a key sticking point that must be resolved before any talks can start.

The Taliban statement said the movement was “sincerely committed” to meeting international concerns over Afghanistan being used as a base for terrorist attacks and had no wish for conflict with the US or other powers.

“The crux of the matter is, what is the vital concern of America, is it really terrorism?” it said.

“Or is it extracting the mineral wealth of Afghanistan, imposing a self-styled government, preventing establishment of an Islamic system and pursuing imperial ambitions in the region from this land?” it said.

“In such circumstances, we do not care about America, neither do we want to talk, nor end resistance, nor will we get tired,” it said.

Observers were cautious about the impact of Ghani’s proposal, which includes offers previously made to the Taliban — though this is the first time they have been arranged in a “clean peace plan” and announced at a multinational conference, Afghan political analyst Abdul Bari said.

“The timing is important ... the Taliban might reject the offer, as they have done in the past, but at least it seems the peace process [which] stopped for a while may get back on track,” Bari added.

Meanwhile, officials in southern Kandahar and Uruzgan accused the Taliban of attacking a police checkpoint between the two provinces, killing five people and kidnapping at least 19.

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