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Afghan Peace 'Jirga' Delegates Reach Out to Taliban Extremists


Delegates at Afghan President Hamid Karzai's national peace assembly say they want peace talks with the Taliban to help end more than eight years of war. The 1,600 delegates from all over Afghanistan voiced their support Friday for President Hamid Karzai's plan to seek reconciliation with Taliban militants.

Delegates released a final resolution at the end of the three-day peace assembly, known as a jirga, calling for the formation of an Afghan commission to lead the peace effort. They also said insurgents must cut their ties to al-Qaida and other foreign terrorist groups.

In the resolution, delegates thanked the international community, especially the United States and Islamic countries, for support and reconstruction. They requested the United Nations remove militants who join the peace process from an embargo list. And Friday's resolution stipulated the government must include its decisions in an international conference next month in Kabul.

In his closing remarks, Mr. Karzai sent a message to Taliban militants and insurgents fighting under the banner of the Islamist militant group Hezb-e-Islami. The president urged them to use this opportunity for peace, saying the jirga's resolution was from the Afghan nations. Calling them his "brothers," the Afghan president urged them to come back to their homeland to help bring peace and prosperity.

Mr. Karzai also said that as a gesture of goodwill, he would work to immediately release any so-called political prisoners who are in jail for their Taliban connections but have not been charged with any crime. He also pledged his support for the peace jirga's findings and said his government will work to implement the entire resolution.

Burhanuddin Rabbani, jirga chairman and a former Afghan president, said that while the jirga may be over, the road to peace is just beginning.

Ower Zala Ashraf Naimat is a representative of Afghanistan's civil society. She believes the Afghan government waited too long before holding a jirga to discuss how to end the fighting. And she adds it was wrong to consult the international community first.

"If you have a problem with your family, what would you think first? What would you do first," Naimat asked. "Do you speak first with your family and then go out, or the other way around?"

The jirga ended on a much calmer note compared to the Taliban violence that marred its opening session earlier in the week. On Wednesday, Afghan security forces killed two attempted suicide bombers during a Taliban attack on the conference. Rockets also landed near the main jirga tent with delegates still inside. No one was hurt.

Despite three days of debate and a new resolve to work with the Taliban, none were invited to the jirga and the movement has said it will not engage in peace talks until all foreign troops leave Afghanistan.

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