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Ghani Welcomes Taliban

Ghani invites Taliban supreme leader for direct talks

Tuesday 19 June 2018, by Azadeh KHANDANI

KABUL (Pajhwok Afghan News) — Welcoming peace activists from southern Helmand province upon arriving in Kabul, President Ashraf Ghani on Tuesday invited the Taliban supreme leader, Mullah Haibatullah, for direct talks with him and offered a year-long ceasefire.

The peace activists from Helmand embarked on their foot journey 38 days ago and after walking for about 700 km through various provinces reached Kabul yesterday. They were warmly welcomed by local residents and women civil society activists and President Ghani called them “real voice of the nation”. In response to recommendations from the peace convoy participants, the president said he had declared unilateral ceasefire and if the Taliban accepted, he was ready to announce a yearlong ceasefire.

Saudi Arabia, the principal sponsor of Taliban, has declared supporting the Afghan government efforts at ending the ongoing conflict in their country and praising ceasefire with the armed opponents, an official said on Tuesday. Qader Shah, head of the National Security.

However, a number of Meshrano Jirga (Afghan Senate) members on Tuesday criticized the Taliban for not extending their ceasefire with government forces, blaming the war in Afghanistan on “interferences”.

Addressing the Taliban, Ghani said:

They should come, if they want talks to be held in a desert..mountain, mosque everywhere, I am ready to arrive there, it is our country, why should we go elsewhere to sit and talk. […] I am thankful to you, you walked for 700 km, you are the real voice of the people. You represent no side — government or Taliban — but represent the entire country.

[…]

If you want address, I am your address. Who want to sit with me? If Maulvi Haibatullah wants, he may come for talks without any conditions. It is my proposal if he (Mualvi Haibatullah) is ready to hold talks with me and (Chief Executive Officer Abdullah) Abdullah, he should give us address, my address is the Presidential Palace.

About his pre-Eid ceasefire which was later extended by another 10 days, President Ghani said the lull in the conflict showed the nation was tired of the war and wanted to live in peace. “If you can agree to three-day ceasefire why not to a year-long,” the president asked the Taliban and invited the rebels to intra-Afghan dialogue.

According to Ghani, in the security transition process (before 2014), Afghan government expelled some 100,000 foreign troops, therefore expelling the remaining few thousands is not a difficult job. Indeed, Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) greatly supported and funded the Taliban during 1994. The ISI used the Taliban to establish a regime in Afghanistan which would be favourable to Pakistan, as they were trying to gain strategic depth. Since the creation of the Taliban, the ISI and the Pakistani military have given financial, logistical and military support.

Between 1994 and 1999, an estimated 80,000 to 100,000 Pakistanis trained and fought in Afghanistan on the side of the Taliban. Up until 9/11 Pakistani military and ISI officers along with thousands of regular Pakistani armed forces personnel had been involved in the fighting in Afghanistan.

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