Kabul: The Afghan government Monday acknowledged that it plans to open peace negotiations with Taliban rebels “soon” but denied having already had direct discussions with the Islamist insurgent group. Abdullah Abdullah, the government’s chief executive and former leader in the fight against the Taliban, said he hoped the initiative would finally bring peace to Afghanistan, which has been living through a transition period since NATO ended its military mission in January.
Afghan President Ashraf Ghani emphasised Monday that after 30 years, the time for negotiations has finally come and Afghans must seize the opportunity to restore peace to their country, according to a statement released by the Presidential Palace.
Ghani has taken the first steps towards achieving peace with the Taliban by holding meetings with senior politicians and members of civil society. Abdullah’s spokesman Javed Faisal told Efe news agency Monday that Pakistan has a crucial role to play in the peace process, and that all Afghans, including politicians and Islamic leaders, will be kept updated on its progress.
Last week, the Afghan Taliban denied holding direct talks with the US in Qatar on possible peace negotiations, after several media reports that such discussions had taken place. The Afghan peace process has been slowly withering since the failure of a second initiative by the US in Qatar, where the Taliban have opened an official delegation, although the hoped-for negotiations did not materialise.
Afghanistan has been going through one of its most violent phases, with around 3,700 civilians killed and 7,000 more who were wounded in 2014, according to UN data. Towards the end of last year, insurgent violence climbed sharply as NATO forces gradually withdrew from the country.
After Jan 1, the NATO mission was replaced by “Operation Resolute Support” which maintains around 4,000 U.S. troops and some 11,000 other US specialists providing training and assistance to Afghan security forces.