Afghan president calls for ‘serious talks’ with Taliban

Afghan president Ashraf Ghani called on the Taliban to "enter serious talks" with the government in Kabul Monday, following unprecedented marathon negotiations between the insurgents and the U.S. in Qatar last week.

India is yet to respond to the latest dialogue that reportedly led to broad agreement on the principles of resolution of the conflict and withdrawal of the USA forces.

But Ghani called the U.S. -Taliban talks "part of our peace" and warned that a deal without Afghan involvement could lead to the kind of "disastrous" civil strife that followed the Soviet troop withdrawal from Afghanistan in 1989.

The palace's statement also said Khalilzad denied reports that the issue of an interim government had been raised, and that the United States and the Taliban had agreed on a timetable for a U.S. withdrawal and a ceasefire.

"We shouldn't forget that the victims of the war are Afghans and thus the peace initiative must be owned by Afghans".

"Afghans do not have any idea whether U.S. has changed its geo-politic approach towards Afghanistan or not", said one user who call himself Logar, the name of a province in the southeast of Kabul. No Afghan wants foreign troops to remain in their country indefinitely.

"We have a draft of the framework that has to be fleshed out before it becomes an agreement", chief U.S. negotiator Zalmay Khalilzad told The New York Times on Monday.

The Taliban have long refused to negotiate with the Afghan government, branding them as "puppets".

The Taliban stage near-daily attacks on Afghan forces and control over almost half the country.

The points of contention include a ceasefire, a timetable for the withdrawal of foreign troops, and the Taliban's ongoing refusal to speak to Kabul.

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Khalilzad met with the Taliban on a number of occasions in recent months - most recently last week in Qatar where the Taliban have a political office - in the latest bid to end America's longest war.

During the meeting with Ghani on Sunday evening, Khalilzad rejected media reports claiming he and the Taliban discussed the formation of an interim administration in Afghanistan, according to the statement. Ghani assured his people on Monday that he would not accept a peace deal that would harm the rights they've secured since then.

"My role is to facilitate", Khalilzad was quoted as saying in the statement.

On Saturday Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said that without a withdrawal timetable, progress on other issues is "impossible". Trump last month rebuffed top advisers and chose to pull USA troops out of Syria as well.

The drafted plan could form the basis for a full American withdrawal from Afghanistan, where USA forces have been battling Taliban fighters-and more recently the Islamic State militant group (ISIS)-for 17 years.

In his statement released by the US Embassy, Khalilzad said, "We made progress on vital issues in our discussions and agreed to agreements in principle on a couple of very important issues".

North Atlantic Treaty Organisation combat troops left Afghanistan in 2014, but thousands remain in training, support and counter-terrorism roles. The US invaded Afghanistan after the Sept 11, 2001, attacks to topple the Taliban, who were harboring Osama bin Laden and al-Qaida.

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 almost two decades of bloodshed.

On Friday, Mr Ghani said more than 45,000 members of the country's security forces had been killed since he became leader in 2014.

The Taliban and United States officials have agreed to continue negotiations, though no date has been publicly announced.

  • Sonia Alvarado