Monday, April 19, 2010

Taliban call for peace talks

Morning Star Online, April 18, 2010

by Tom Mellen

DESTRUCTION: An Afghan police man stands  guard outside the  damaged wall of the police headquarters in Kandahar  south of Kabul. The  Taliban has said it wants to hold peace talks.

DESTRUCTION: An Afghan police man stands guard outside the damaged wall of the police headquarters in Kandahar south of Kabul. The Taliban has said it wants to hold peace talks.

Taliban chief Mullah Mohammed Omar has said that he and his followers are willing to hold “sincere and honest” peace talks with Western political leaders.

In an interview with the Sunday Times conducted deep inside territory held by Afghan resistance forces, two men whom the newspaper identified as members of the Taliban’s ruling council said that Mr Omar was not vying to rule Afghanistan.

The Quetta shura scholars said that the Islamist umbrella group was fighting for three objectives – the expulsion of foreign military forces, the restoration of Islamic law and security for the Afghan people.

The men said that Mr Omar was prepared to engage in “sincere and honest” talks to realise this.

One man who introduced himself as Mullah Abdul Rashid declared that the Taliban’s supreme leader was “no longer interested in being involved in politics or government.

“All the holy warriors seek is to expel the foreigners, these invaders, from our country and then to repair the country’s constitution,” he said.

“We are not interested in running the country as long as these things are achieved.”

Reviewing the five years in which the Taliban governed Afghanistan before it was ousted by a US-led invasion force in 2001 the men declared that it had been a mistake for the Islamist movement to immerse itself in politics.

Mr Rashid said: “We didn’t have the capability to govern the country and we were surprised by how things went – we lacked people with either experience or technical expertise in government.

“Now all we’re doing is driving the invader out,” he said.

Mr Rashid vowed to “leave politics to civil society and return to our religious schools” when this had been achieved.

Last week a resistance faction led by former Afghan prime minister Gulbadin Hekmatyar sent a three-member team to Kabul for talks with the Karzai regime, Afghan MPs and Nato officials.

The Hizb-e-Islami delegation declared that it was fighting to expel foreign troops and was not seeking government positions after the war.

US President Barack Obama’s administration is currently considering whether to drop its opposition to direct talks with the Taliban.

Two Dutch soldiers were killed on Saturday by a roadside bomb in Uruzgan province, where the Netherlands has deployed some 1,800 soldiers and support staff.

The troops are due to pull out in August.

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