Afghan Taliban rejects peace talks with Kabul govt

Taliban rejects peace talks with Afghan government, marking setback in efforts to restart negotiations aimed at ending group's insurgency

Photo by: AFP
Photo by: AFP

Taliban refuses to hold peace talks with Afghan govt

The Taliban on Saturday refused to hold direct peace talks with the Afghan government, dealing a blow to international efforts to revive long-stalled negotiations aimed at ending the deadly 14-year insurgency.

The announcement, which comes as face-to-face talks were expected to start in Islamabad this week, stressed longstanding preconditions for dialogue including the departure of foreign troops from Afghanistan.

The Taliban's seemingly intractable position follows a string of military victories for the militant group after NATO formally ended its combat operations more than a year ago.

"We want to repeat our stance once again that until the occupation of foreign troops ends, until Taliban names are removed from international blacklists and until our detainees are released, talks will yield no results," the group said in a statement.

The announcement marks a setback in efforts by Afghanistan, China, Pakistan and the United States to restart negotiations aimed at ending the insurgency.

Delegates from the four countries met in Kabul late February for a fourth round of talks aimed at reviving the nascent peace process, which stalled last summer.

The quartet had called for a direct meeting between the Taliban and Kabul by this week, a deadline that some analysts called "completely unrealistic."

"We unequivocally state that the esteemed leader of Islamic Emirate ]Taliban] has not authorised anyone to participate in this meeting and neither has the Leadership Council of Islamic Emirate decided to partake in it," the Taliban statement added.

The group also accused the United States of duplicity, saying it had boosted troop numbers, increased air strikes and night raids against the insurgents in tandem with its efforts to restart talks.