December 23, 2016
ISLAMABAD — The Taliban has rejected latest United Nations calls for engaging in peace talks with the Afghan government, and instead demanded the world body pressure U.S.-led foreign troops to end their “occupation” of Afghanistan if the U.N. truly wants an end to the 15-year war.
“Our fight is for independence, and as long as foreign occupation forces are present here (in Afghanistan) any talk about peace and reconciliation is meaningless,” Taliban spokesman, Zabihullah Mujahid, told VOA Friday.
He was responding to a renewed call for Afghan peace talks earlier this week by Tadamichi Yamamoto, who heads the U.N. Assistance Mission in Afghanistan, or UNAMA.
In his quarterly briefing to the Security Council in New York on Monday, Yamamoto urged the Taliban to enter into direct talks with the Kabul government, without preconditions, to prevent further bloodshed in the country.
“We all know that the conflict in Afghanistan has no military solution. The Taliban leadership must reconsider the notion that their objectives can only be achieved on the battlefield,” noted the UNAMA chief.
However, the Taliban spokesman insisted that all parties interested in resolving Afghanistan’s problems should pressure on foreign forces to leave Afghanistan and let its people decide the kind of governing system they need for their country.
“Afghans neither like a foreign-imposed regime nor do they accept presence of foreign forces in their country,” he said, citing presence of American and NATO in Afghanistan as the main cause of the conflict.
The Taliban maintains President Ashraf Ghani’s national unity government is not a “sovereign administration,” alleging it works under U.S. direction. The Islamist insurgency has recently called for direct talks with the U.S. administration to find a solution to the Afghan war.
But Washington rejected the offer and reiterated its support for an Afghan-led reconciliation process.
“We believe that’s the right approach. We’ve always believed that that’s the right approach. President Ghani, more importantly, also believes in the criticality of that approach, and that’s where our support will go to,” said State Department spokesman Johan Kirby on Wednesday while responding to the Taliban’s offer.
The Afghan war has caused unprecedented bloodshed in 2016. UNAMA estimates more than 3,000 civilians have died while thousands more have been wounded so far this year.
The U.S. military reported in October that in the first eight months of 2016, Afghan forces suffered more than 15,000 casualties, including over 5,500 deaths. The casualties figures for the entire year are likely to be much higher because the conflict has expanded and intensified since August.
For their part, Afghan authorities earlier this week reported that in country-wide police operations alone more than 8,500 “enemy” fighters have been killed this year.
The Afghan Defense Ministry estimates suggest its troops have also killed thousands of anti-government fighters in counter-insurgency operations in 2016, but no official figures have been released as yet.
The U.N. says the conflict also forced more than 5,5100 Afghans to flee their homes this year, representing record level of internal displacements during the past 15 years.