Afghan president unveils plan for peace talks with Taliban


 KABUL, Feb 28, 2018 (BSS/AFP) – Afghan President Ashraf Ghani on Wednesday unveiled a plan to open peace talks with the Taliban, including eventually recognising them as a political party, days after the militants called for direct negotiations with the US.

Civilian casualties have soared in recent months as the Taliban increasingly targets towns and cities in response to a new and more aggressive US military policy ordered by President Donald Trump.

Ghani disclosed the framework at a regional conference in Kabul on bringing peace to his country. He called for a truce, after which the Taliban could become a political party and contest elections.

“A ceasefire should be held, the Taliban should be recognised as a political party and trust-building process should be initiated,” said Ghani, in remarks similar to past offers.

“Now the decision is in your hands, accept peace… and let’s bring stability to this country,” he added.

In return, Ghani said the militants should officially recognise the Afghan government and the constitution, a perennial sticking point in past attempts to open talks.

On Monday the Taliban said it was prepared to enter direct talks with the US to find a “peaceful solution” to more than 16 years of war.

Its statement however made no mention of negotiating with the Afghan government — a condition which the US has long stated was vital to any peace process.

Pakistani journalist and Taliban expert Rahimullah Yusufzai said the insurgents’ leadership remained committed to the US-only position, but others in the movement were less dogmatic about talking with Kabul.

“There are some people among the Taliban who believe that they will have to negotiate with the Afghan government,” said Yusufzai.

He added that the militants have suffered heavy casualties under the new US strategy of increased airstrikes and commando raids.

Despite the losses, Yusufzai said the group would continue the insurgency. “They derive their power from their ability to keep fighting,” he said.

Kabul is hosting the second round of the peace conference at which representatives from 25 countries will discuss counter-terrorism and conflict resolution strategies. US officials have described the current situation in the war as a stalemate.