Afghanistan plays down talks with insurgent faction

KABUL Tue Mar 30, 2010 7:34pm IST

A file photo of Afghanistan's President Hamid Karzai as he signs a decree giving more authority to an anti-graft body in Kabul March 18, 2010. REUTERS/Ahmad Masood/Files

A file photo of Afghanistan's President Hamid Karzai as he signs a decree giving more authority to an anti-graft body in Kabul March 18, 2010.

Credit: Reuters/Ahmad Masood/Files

Related Topics

KABUL (Reuters) - Afghanistan on Tuesday played down the possibility of an early breakthrough in talks with a main insurgent faction, saying negotiations were still in the early stages and it did not want to raise expectations.

The government announced last week President Hamid Karzai had met a senior delegation from Hezb-i-Islami, one of the three main groups fighting Afghan and foreign forces in the country, his first confirmed talks with the group that rivals the Taliban.

Although the talks are preliminary, the public acknowledgement of the meeting was itself a significant milestone after many months of furtive efforts by Karzai to reach out to the militants in a bid to bring an end to the fighting.

A member of the Hezb-i-Islami delegation who met Karzai told Reuters last week the group had presented a 15-point plan, including a demand that foreign troops begin withdrawing in July this year and pull out completely within six months.

That timetable was flexible, the delegate later said, and indicated the rebels could be satisfied with Washington's target of mid-2011 to start withdrawing, provided preparations to pull out began sooner to demonstrate America was sincere.

"The negotiation process is in progress with Hezb-i-Islami," Karzai's chief spokesman, Waheed Omer, told reporters on Tuesday in the first public statement on the talks since the government confirmed the meeting had taken place.

"As for the proposal from Hezb-i-Islami... I'm afraid I cannot release opinions at his time to you because we are in the early stages of the talks and I do not want to raise expectations," he said.

Washington has said it supports plans to reintegrate low-level fighters back into Afghan society, while cautiously backing Afghan efforts to reconcile with senior insurgents, provided they lay down their weapons and repudiate al Qaeda.

Last week, U.S. Defence Secretary Robert Gates said the timing was still not right for reconciliation with senior Afghan Taliban leaders, acknowledging military pressure had yet to weaken the group enough.

Hezb-i-Islami, led by veteran guerrilla commander Gulbuddin Hekmatyar has shared some of the aims of the Taliban, but has led a separate insurgency, mainly in the east and north of Afghanistan.

Hezb-i-Islami is not considered as big a threat by NATO forces as the Taliban and a network of followers of insurgent commander Jalaluddin Haqqani based mainly in the southeast.

(Editing by Peter Graff)

(For more Reuters coverage of Afghanistan and Pakistan, see: here)

FILED UNDER:
  • Most Popular
  • Most Shared

Insight

REUTERS SHOWCASE

Border Tensions

Border Tensions

India names Ajit Doval as special envoy for China border talks.  Full Article 

Easing Congestion

Easing Congestion

India targets private cash to build railways to its ports.  Full Article 

First Casualty

First Casualty

Jindal Steel shelves $10 bln project after coal setback.  Full Article 

Global Trade Dispute

Global Dispute

U.S. seeks to step up India trade talks after WTO deal.  Full Article 

Budget Airline

Budget Airline

SpiceJet says in early talks with investors for fresh capital.  Full Article 

Iran Talks

Iran Talks

Iran nuclear talks extended 7 months after failing to meet deadline.  Full Article 

Obama Aide Quits

Obama Aide Quits

Hagel resigns as U.S. defence secretary, official says.  Full Article 

Clarke In

Clarke In

Clarke in first test team, but must prove fitness.  Full Article 

Glory Days

Glory Days

Hamilton leaves the partying for later.  Full Article 

Reuters India Mobile

Reuters India Mobile

Get the latest news on the go. Visit Reuters India on your mobile device  Full Coverage