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AFP
November 23, 2018

Afghan Taliban not serious about peace, says govt chief

World

AFP
November 23, 2018

PARIS: The Taliban in Afghanistan have not yet shown any sign they are serious about ending their 17-year insurgency despite US efforts to push a fresh peace process, the country´s de facto prime minister told AFP.

Abdullah Abdullah, who serves as “chief executive” of the unity government in Kabul, struck a far more sceptical tone about the prospects of a deal than his political rival, President Ashraf Ghani, and his Western counterparts. Ghani said earlier this month it was “not a question of if, but when” an agreement would be reached with the Taliban, while the US envoy to the country even raised the possibility of a breakthrough before presidential elections in April. “Recently there are renewed efforts in terms of the international community and especially the US,” Abdullah told AFP during a wide-ranging interview in Paris that also covered his own political ambitions.

“We are not judging it too prematurely, but I would say that our experience as of now has been that they (the Taliban) have not shown any intention to get seriously engaged in the peace negotiations,” he added. The comment on Wednesday came after the latest atrocity targeting civilians in Kabul when a bomber killed 55 people at a banquet hall at a ceremony to mark the birthday of the Prophet Mohammed (PBUH). Abdullah, a political veteran of the fight against Soviet forces in the 1980s and Taliban rule in the 90s, called it “beyond comprehension.” Beleaguered Afghan security forces are also suffering an unprecedented level of casualties across the country where the Taliban and the Islamic State group are stepping up attacks.

Returning to Kabul on Thursday after a three-day trip to France, Abdullah said he expected to be briefed fully about the latest round of talks between US envoy Zalmay Khalilzad and the Taliban, which are believed to have taken place in Qatar last week. Whatever the outcome, he argued that Afghanistan should hold its presidential election as scheduled next April despite a recent upsurge in violence and suggestions from some that it should be delayed. “My idea is to stick to the timing, make it work, because it´s part of the system and legitimacy of the system depends on the elections,” he said. “At the same time, continue the efforts on peace with full vigour.” He downplayed any suggestion of a pre-election breakthrough with the Taliban. “It will be very surprising if that happens, but should it happen ... that would be welcomed by the people of Afghanistan,” he added. Abdullah has kept up suspense about his own political ambitions after twice running for president in 2009 and 2014 in campaigns that ended bitterly amid accusations of fraud.

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