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Thursday 22 August 2019

Taliban reject talk of direct negotiations with Afghan government

An Afghan official had said the government would hold its first-ever direct talks with the Taliban within two weeks.

Afghan presidential candidate Ashraf Ghani speaks during the first day of campaigning in Kabul, (Rahmat Gul/AP)
Afghan presidential candidate Ashraf Ghani speaks during the first day of campaigning in Kabul, (Rahmat Gul/AP)

By Associated Press Reporters

An Afghan official said on Sunday that the government would hold its first-ever direct talks with the Taliban within two weeks, but the insurgents quickly denied any such meeting was planned and reiterated their opposition to negotiating with government representatives in their official capacity.

The Taliban have been holding peace talks with the United States for nearly a year but have refused to recognise the Kabul government, viewing it as an American puppet.

Abdul Salam Rahimi, Afghanistan’s state minister for peace affairs, said a 15-member government delegation would meet the Taliban in Europe, but did not elaborate.

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Supporters of Afghan presidential candidate Ashraf Ghani attend the first day of campaigning in Kabul (Rahmat Gul/AP)

Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said: “There has been no agreement on such a meeting and that has not been co-ordinated with Taliban.”

He said that once the insurgents reach an agreement with the US, they would be open to intra-Afghan talks, but any government representatives would have to participate in a personal capacity.

US envoy Zalmay Khalilzad, who is currently visiting the capital, Kabul, appeared to share that position.

He tweeted that another round of “intra-Afghan” talks would occur “after we conclude our own agreements”.

He said it would include the Taliban and “an inclusive and effective national negotiating team consisting of senior government officials, key political party representatives, civil society and women”.

Sunday marked the first day of campaigning for presidential elections scheduled for September 28.

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A supporter holds an image of Afghan presidential candidate Ashraf Ghani (Rahmat Gul/AP)

President Ashraf Ghani is seeking a second term on promises of ending the 18-year war but has been largely sidelined over the past year as the US has negotiated directly with the Taliban.

The two sides are aiming for an agreement in which American forces would withdraw in exchange for guarantees that Afghanistan will not be a launchpad for international terror attacks.

The Taliban, who effectively control around half the country, have continued to carry out daily attacks on Afghan security forces.

A Taliban suicide bomber killed four police officers early on Sunday in an attack on a police station in the eastern Ghazni province, according to Ahmad Khan Serat, a spokesman for the provincial police. He said 10 other officers were injured.

Elsewhere in Ghazni, a roadside bomb killed three civilians and wounded three others, Mr Serat said.

No-one claimed the attack, and civilians are often killed or maimed by bombs targeting security forces.

PA Media

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