- Says Pakistan and Afghanistan are in a state of undeclared war, stresses the need for cooperation between the two countries
- Says up to Taliban whether they want to choose war or peace
- Quadrilateral group to meet and review the situation after Taliban’s refusal to join the talks
A day after the armed group refused to take part in peace negotiations expected to be held in the first week of March, Afghan President Ashraf Ghani has urged the Afghan Taliban to join the reconciliation process.
“We urge the Taliban to join peace talks and determine the best way to serve Islam and Afghanistan,” Ghani said while opening the parliament on Sunday.
On March 5, Afghan Taliban discredited diplomatic efforts by the Quadrilateral Group, i.e., Pakistan, Afghanistan, China and the United States, saying their political office in Qatar had been kept in the dark on the reconciliation process.
A statement from the Taliban’s all powerful ‘Rehbari Shura’ or Leadership Council reiterated their pre-conditions, which include end to the foreign occupation in Afghanistan, release of prisoners and lifting of UN-imposed international curbs on its top leaders.
“We want peace and no one should doubt our intentions,” the Afghan president said. “That has been our national approach. We have a strong resolve for peace and we have not given up this policy even though the environment has been sensitive and fighting has continued.”
The Taliban refusal has put member countries of the four-way process in an awkward position who had also reached an understanding to act against the so-called irreconcilable elements.
A quadrilateral meeting is expected to be held soon to review the situation arising after the Taliban refusal, amid concerns in Afghanistan about possible intensification of fighting as weather warms.
Ghani opposed secrecy in the talks, saying Afghanistan should know about the process.
“Peace cannot be achieved through secret efforts and we must keep the people informed”.
The Afghan president said that Pakistan and Afghanistan are in a state of undeclared war.
He stressed the “need to cooperate and reach an agreement as both countries are suffering from terrorism”. He said the Taliban were facing a major test to choose whether they wanted peace or war.
Ghani said the militant Islamic State (ISIS) has been defeated in eastern Afghanistan, where it had taken over some remote districts. Afghan forces had dislodged ISIS loyalists from regions of Nangarhar province bordering Pakistan. He said Afghanistan would be a “graveyard” for ISIS.
IS has had a presence in Afghanistan for more than a year. Officials have said most militants calling themselves IS are disgruntled Taliban fighters.
Afghan forces have claimed victory following a 21-day operation in the Achin and Shinwar districts of Nangarhar, claiming they killed at least 200 militants.