Afghan Taliban Chief Renews Call for Direct Talks with America

The leader of Afghanistan’s Taliban, Hibatullah Akhundzada, renewed his call Tuesday for direct talks with the United States to end the war, dashing renewed hopes the insurgent group might be mulling to engage in a peace dialogue with the Kabul government.

In his “message of felicitation” on the occasion of Eid ul Fitr festival, which marks the end of the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan, the Taliban chief again justified his group’s military campaign, citing the presence of U.S.-led foreign “occupation forces” in the country.

“If the American officials truly believe in a peaceful end to the Afghan imbroglio, then they must directly present themselves to the negotiation table so that this tragedy [invasion] the destructive effects of which mainly harm the American and Afghan people can be resolved through talks,” Akhundzada said in a statement sent to journalists ahead of the three-days of Eid festivities starting on Friday.

The insurgent leader accused American forces of bombing Afghan villages to “subdue” and impose their “own ideology” on them. He insisted “the only path to rescuing ourselves from all these calamities” is for all foreign “occupation forces” to leave the country and allow an independent, Islamic intra-Afghan government to take root.

“The biggest mistake on part of the American officials is that they approach every problem with stubbornness, but force cannot yield results in every case,” Akhundzada added.

The United States has already rejected Taliban calls for direct negotiations and has urged the insurgents to talk to the Afghan government.

“The U.S. is ready to participate in the discussion, but we cannot serve as a substitute for the Afghan government and the Afghan people,” said Lisa Curtis, a key advisor to President Donald Trump, while delivering a speech in Washington last week.

The Taliban has pledged to stop attacks against Afghan security forces during Eid, though the group’s leader did not refer to the limited cease-fire in Tuesday’s message.

The insurgents plan to end hostilities, apparently in response to Afghan President Ashraf Ghani’s unilateral suspension of anti-Taliban operations across the country, for a week to allow the Taliban to review their violent campaign and seek a negotiated end to the war. The government’s cease-fire took effect on Tuesday.

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