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Afghanistan Offers to Recognize Taliban as Legitimate Political Party

In addition, Taliban prisoners could be released and their names removed from international blacklists, while security arrangements could be made for Taliban agreeing to join a process of reconciliation. Former fighters and refugees could be reintegrated
Ashraf GhaniAshraf Ghani

The Afghan government is willing to recognize the Taliban as a legitimate political party as part of a potential ceasefire agreement with the militant group, President Ashraf Ghani said on Wednesday.

The announcement made at the start of an international conference in Kabul, could represent a significant shift in Afghanistan’s policy toward the group. Just last month, US President Donald Trump said Washington was not ready to talk to the Taliban, CNN reported.

The offer, made at the start of an international conference aimed at creating a platform for peace talks, adds to a series of signals from both the Western-backed government and the Taliban suggesting a greater willingness to consider dialogue.

Ghani proposed a ceasefire and a release of prisoners as part of a range of options including new elections, involving the militants, and a constitutional review as part of a pact with the Taliban.

 No Preconditions

“We are making this offer without preconditions in order to lead to a peace agreement,” Ghani said in opening remarks to the conference attended by officials from around 25 countries involved in the so-called Kabul Process.

“The Taliban are expected to give input to the peace-making process, the goal of which is to draw the Taliban, as an organization, to peace talks,” he said, adding that he would not “pre-judge” any group seeking peace, Reuters reported.

However Ghani, who recently helped launch the latest stage in a major regional gas pipeline from Turkmenistan, said the momentum for peace was building from neighboring countries that increasingly saw the necessity of a stable Afghanistan.

“The Taliban show awareness of these contextual shifts and seem to be engaged in a debate on the implications of acts of violence for their future,” he said.

  Political Office

Ghani said a framework for peace negotiations should be created with the Taliban recognized as a legitimate group, with their own political office to handle negotiations in Kabul or another agreed location.

Taliban officials have acknowledged that they have faced pressure from friendly countries to accept talks and said their recent offers to talk to the United States reflected concern that they could be seen to be standing in the way of peace.

Ghani said the process would be accompanied by coordinated diplomatic support including a global effort to persuade neighboring Pakistan, which Kabul has regularly accused of aiding the Taliban, of the advantages of a stable Afghanistan.

He renewed an offer of talks with Pakistan, which rejects the accusations and points to the thousands of its citizens who have been killed by militant groups over the years.

In return for Ghani’s offer, the Taliban would have to recognize the Afghan government and respect the rule of law, he said.

In addition, Taliban prisoners could be released and their names removed from international blacklists, while security arrangements could be made for Taliban agreeing to join a process of reconciliation. Former fighters and refugees could be reintegrated and provided with jobs.

The United States last year stepped up its military assistance to Afghanistan, notably through a sharp increase in air strikes, with the aim of breaking a stalemate with the insurgents and forcing them to the negotiating table.

While the US military says the strategy has hit the Taliban hard, they still control or contest much of the country and continue to inflict severe casualties on Afghan forces.

They also claimed responsibility for two major attacks in Kabul last month that killed or wounded hundreds of civilians.

The Taliban has been waging a bitter fight in Afghanistan with the ultimate goal of ruling the country and imposing its strict interpretation of Islamic law.

The group controlled Afghanistan until 2001, when it was overthrown by the US-led coalition that invaded the country following the 9/11 attacks.

The conflict has dragged on for 16 years, making it the longest foreign war the United States has been involved in.

As a candidate, Trump vowed to draw down the US presence in Afghanistan. But as President, he’s given the Pentagon more autonomy, including the authority to increase troop levels.

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