KABUL (Reuters) - Afghanistan’s Taliban rejected President Hamid Karzai’s latest attempt to reach out to them as “futile” and “farcical” on Sunday, but said they were open to talks to achieve their goal of an Islamic state.
“This is not the first time that the Kabul regime and the invading countries want to throw dust into the eyes of the public of the world by announcing reconciliation in words and, in practice, make preparation for war,” said a statement posted in English on the Afghan Taliban’s website, alemarah.info.
“Similarly, they put forward conditions, which are tantamount to escalating the war rather than ending it. For example, they want Mujahideen to lay down arms, accept the constitution and renounce violence. None can name this reconciliation,” it said.
Karzai used a conference in London last month to repeat a call for reconciliation with his “disenchanted brothers” in the Taliban. He has since travelled to Saudi Arabia to ask its leaders for help reaching out to the militants.
At the conference, Western governments approved language in a communique that said Afghans who disavow violence and accept the constitution should be accepted in the political process, signalling support for Karzai’s outreach bid.
But the Taliban statement rejected Western support for Karzai’s reconciliation efforts as “an eyewash” designed to convince anti-war voters in the West their leaders want peace, even as they prepare for a new offensive in Helmand province.
The Taliban were ousted from power in 2001, but are leading an insurgency that has grown stronger in recent years. NATO commanders say they hope to turn the tide on the battlefield this year to persuade fighters to lay down their arms.
The Taliban statement described Karzai’s conditions as a call to surrender which was futile because the fighters influence was spreading.
It listed goals including complete independence and the establishment of an Islamic system, adding: “Our first priority is to achieve these goals through talks and negotiation.”
“But if the invading powers in Afghanistan are not ready to give the Afghans their natural rights ... then the Mujahideen of the Islamic Emirate are determined to carry on the fight until the realisation of the said goals,” it said.
(Editing by Jon Boyle)