Ghani assures Taliban to open office for peace talks

  • Afghan president says he will seek new sanctions if militant militia avoids dialogue
  • ‘Afghanistan fighting 20 transnational terrorist groups’

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani on Tuesday hosted the Kabul Process – a multinational peace conference, in which he explained that the purpose of the conference was to defeat terrorism and ensure peace.

“Foreign fighters have increased in the last two years. This is the last chance for Taliban to become part of the national mainstream,” he said, and assured the Taliban that he would provide them space to open up an office for conducting peace negotiations.

Speaking to the participants, Ghani said the attacks in Afghanistan were part of the violence that had struck foreign cities around the world, most recently in London, where three militants drove a van into pedestrians on Saturday before attacking people with knives.

He said that Afghanistan was on the front line of a global war against such violence. “We’re fighting 20 transnational terrorist groups on your behalf,” he said. “What we need is an agreement on regional security,” he said.

Ghani said if the Taliban did not soon begin negotiations, he would seek new sanctions against the group as a sponsor of terrorism. “This is the last chance, take it or face the consequences,” he said. He said Afghanistan had provided its preconditions for negotiations to the Taliban, but it remains unclear whether the group’s leaders represented all factions.

The peace conference was set to include discussions on talks with Taliban, as the capital reels from a wave of bombings and clashes that left more than 100 people dead and hundreds wounded in the last week. Much of Kabul was in lockdown ahead of the conference, with tighter than usual security including more armed checkpoints and armoured vehicles patrolling the streets, and tight restrictions on civilian traffic.

However, at least one rocket struck an Indian diplomatic compound a few blocks away. No immediate casualties were reported in the incident. Representatives of around 25 countries, including Pakistan, India, China and the US, along with the European Union, North Atlantic Treaty Organisation, and the United Nations, attended the meeting, which aimed to build international support on ways to restore security in the conflict-torn country.

Pakistan was represented by two senior officials of the Foreign Ministry — Additional Secretary Tasnim Aslam and director general of Afghanistan, Iran and Central Asia affairs.