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Karzai Reaches Out to Taliban in New Afghan Peace Council


Afghan President Hamid Karzai, center, speaks during the inaugural session of Afghanistan's new peace council in Kabul, Afghanistan, 7 Oct. 2010

Afghan President Hamid Karzai, center, speaks during the inaugural session of Afghanistan's new peace council in Kabul, Afghanistan, 7 Oct. 2010

Afghan President Hamid Karzai used the anniversary of the start of the war in Afghanistan to open the inaugural session of a peace council appointed to help reconcile with the Taliban and other militant groups.

President Karzai offered peace to the Taliban nine years to the day after U.S.-led forces began their effort to topple the group's government in Kabul.

Mr. Karzai opened the 70-member council meeting.

The Afghan leader said he hoped the High Council for Peace will make the desire of peace and stability a reality for the nation. He said Afghanistan's reconstruction and development are linked to peace and stability.

The council includes former Taliban officials as well as past Afghan presidents, civilian and religious leaders.

President Karzai made a special appeal to members of the Taliban in their main language, Pashto.

He called again on opposition forces, the Taliban and any Afghan citizen inside or outside of the country to use the opportunity to forge peace.

The U.S. government has expressed support for Mr. Karzai's long-standing efforts to negotiate peace with the Taliban.

For months, there have been scattered reports that the Karzai administration has been involved in secret talks with the militant group. But the Taliban leadership officially has dismissed the possibility of reconciliation until foreign forces leave the country.

Afghan political analyst Wadir Sapai says he believes that the Taliban will accept a timeline for a coalition withdrawal only if the Afghan government meets its other basic demands, which include government recognition of the Taliban as a legitimate political group with sovereignty within its regional strongholds.

Sapai says the Taliban inadvertently finds itself with allies in the current Afghan government, who are echoing its call for changes to the country's constitution.

"Even the opposition of the present government also wants this amendment, which would be a parliamentary regime with a prime minister and limited authorities for the president," he said.

Sapai says that a lack of trust in the Afghan government contributes to the belief that Afghanistan has lost more than it has gained after nine years of war.

"Afghanistan has lost in the security sphere, in the economic sphere, in the political sphere and also in the nation building," he added. "Afghanistan has not gained anything for society, nothing for the peace [and] nothing for the region."

This year has been the deadliest of the war, with more than 560 foreign troops killed. More than 2,000 foreign troops have died since 2001. As coalition and Afghan forces push deeper into Taliban-controlled territory in the south, analysts warn that the number of causalities will increase.

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