KABUL (Reuters) - The Taliban on Wednesday dismissed an Afghan government plan aimed at persuading fighters to lay down their arms in return for cash as a “trick”, saying the only solution to the war would be the withdrawal of foreign troops.
Afghan President Hamid Karzai is to announce details of a plan to reintegrate thousands of lower- to mid-level Taliban fighters, which diplomats said would include job training and money, at a London conference on Afghanistan on Thursday.
Karzai will seek funding for the scheme from Western donors at the conference. The United States has expressed support for the programme, which was hammered out in meetings in Abu Dhabi earlier this month between the Afghan government and donors.
But in a statement posted on the eve of the conference on one of their websites, (www.alemara.co.cc/), the Taliban said the plan was a “trick” and that the Islamists would not be weakened by any scheme pushing for militants to lay down their arms.
“They think the mujahideen of (Afghanistan) will be enticed by money or by positions of power ... such thoughts are baseless and futile and have no truth,” said the statement, which was also e-mailed to media on Wednesday.
It also reiterated the Taliban’s long-standing position that the only way to end the conflict, now in its ninth year, was for foreign troops to leave the country.
There are more than 110,000 foreign troops in Afghanistan, including some 70,000 Americans, fighting a resurgent Taliban who have managed to spread their attacks out of traditional strongholds in the south and east into previously peaceful areas.
To try and turn the tide, Washington is sending 30,000 more troops to Afghanistan this year, some of whom have already begun to arrive. Other nations are sending around 7,000 more.
Violence has reached its highest levels since the Taliban were removed from power by U.S.-backed Afghan forces in late 2001 for harbouring al Qaeda chief Osama bin Laden. Last year was the deadliest of the war for Afghan civilians and foreign troops.
In the statement, the Taliban also repeated a claim by the group’s leader Mullah Mohammad Omar late last year that the Islamists posed no threat to the West and were only concerned with re-establishing an Islamic emirate within Afghanistan.
(Editing by Jonathon Burch and Paul Tait)
(For more Reuters coverage of Afghanistan and Pakistan, see: here)