Afghan President calls for ‘serious talks’ with Taliban

Vastavam web: Afghan President Ashraf Ghani said Monday the Taliban should “enter serious talks” with his government, after the insurgents and Washington both touted progress during unprecedented negotiations in Qatar last week. A months-long diplomatic push by the United States to get the Taliban to talk to Kabul culminated in six days of meetings between the US and the insurgents in Doha, but the Taliban have long refused to negotiate with the Afghan government to end the 17-year conflict, branding them as “puppets”.

“I call on the Taliban to… show their Afghan will, and accept Afghans’ demand for peace, and enter serious talks with the Afghan government,” Ghani said in a nationally televised address from the presidential palace in Kabul. Sticking points remain, with topics including a ceasefire and a timetable for the withdrawal of foreign troops, as well as a prisoner exchange and a guarantee not to allow militant safe havens in Afghanistan believed to have been on the agenda.

US President Donald Trump’s clear eagerness to end America’s longest war has also weighed heavy on the discussions. But Afghan authorities have previously complained of being excluded from the talks in Qatar, and warned that any deal between the US and the Taliban would require Kabul’s endorsement. The palace’s statement said Khalilzad denied reports that the issue of an interim government had been raised, saying that was “absolutely wrong” and there had been no discussions with the Taliban about any future government in Kabul.

He also confirmed there had been no progress on the issue of a ceasefire. Afghans have expressed tentative hopes about the talks tempered by fears of an American exit, with Afghan security forces taking staggering losses, the government facing election upheaval, and civilians paying a disproportionate price after nearly two decades of bloodshed.