Taliban to decide soon on talks offer
As President Karzai awaits response, militants launch attack in capital of Helmand
Taliban leaders will decide soon whether to join talks with the Afghan government, a militant spokesman said yesterday, after President Hamid Karzai invited them to a peace council aimed at ending the war.
In the country's south, suicide attackers launched an assault in the capital of Helmand, Afghanistan's most violent province, with gunmen holed up in three buildings, battling government and Nato troops who returned fire with helicopter strikes. When the fighting stopped before dusk a witness saw the bullet-riddled bodies of four gunmen dragged out of a building in Lashkar Gah by Afghan troops and displayed in the street. Two of the dead gunmen wore police uniforms.
At a major conference in London on Thursday, Mr Karzai set the framework for dialogue with Taliban leaders when he called on the Islamist group's leadership to take part in a "loya jirga" – or large assembly of elders – to initiate peace talks.
The call came amidst a diplomatic push from Western powers involved in the Afghan conflict to make hard plans that would pave the way for them to begin withdrawing their troops.
Under Mr Karzai's proposal, the West would not be directly involved in peace talks. A separate plan backed by Washington and its allies would set up a fund to reintegrate Taliban fighters by luring them away from the insurgency with jobs and cash.
A Taliban spokesman declined to talk in detail about the President's plans and only said the militants would make a decision "soon" about his offer. "I cannot say a word regarding these peace talks. The Taliban leadership will soon decide whether to take part," the spokesman, who uses the name Qari Mohammad Yousuf, said by telephone from an undisclosed location.
The Taliban have said repeatedly that negotiations with the Afghan government can only take place when foreign troops completely withdraw from Afghanistan and have dismissed the reintegration plans as a "trick".
A big Pashtun tribe in east Afghanistan, the Shinwari, meanwhile, announced it would help the Afghan government in its efforts to fight the Taliban in return for construction projects for the community. The tribe's head, Malek Osman, said he would impose a fine on anyone in his district who worked with the Taliban, and urged one man of fighting age from each family to join the army or police.
The government in Kabul and its Western backers have increasingly signalled their hope for a negotiated end to the eight-year-old war. A UN official said the organisation's envoy to Afghanistan, Kai Eide, had met representatives of the Taliban leadership in Dubai earlier this month. Mr Eide told the BBC yesterday that he would not reveal details of any meetings that might have happened.
- 1 Exodus Gods and Kings: Ridley Scott never considered casting 'Mohammad so-and-so from such-and-such' in lead role
- 2 This letter from a reader explains why women can’t play football
- 3 'You should come to my house and eat cheeses with me': 4-year-old sends adorable love letter to girl at school
- 4 Scientists predict green energy revolution after incredible new graphene discoveries
- 5 Michael Buerk wishes he'd killed Jimmy Savile when he had the chance - by pushing him overboard a cruise ship
Black Friday 2014: Opening times for Asda, John Lewis, GAME, PC World and Argos
Dr Lam Hoe Yeoh: Voyeur doctor jailed for eight years after using network of hidden cameras to film patients, colleagues and friends on the toilet
'You should come to my house and eat cheeses with me': 4-year-old sends adorable love letter to girl at school
Scientists predict green energy revolution after incredible new graphene discoveries
Michael Buerk wishes he'd killed Jimmy Savile when he had the chance - by pushing him overboard a cruise ship
Ukip says babies born to immigrants in the UK should be classed as migrants – which would include Nigel Farage’s own children
Obama: The only people with the right to object to immigration are Native Americans
The young are the new poor: Sharp increase in number of under-25s living in poverty, while over-65s are better off than ever
Tamir Rice: 12-year-old boy playing with fake gun dies after being shot by Ohio police
Ukip mocked after mistaking Westminster Cathedral – for a mosque
Sarah Vine criticises lesbian mother Jack Monroe: 'If she was unsure about her sexuality, she should have taken greater precautions'
£13500 - £14500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An exciting new opportunity has...
£35000 - £45000 per annum + OTE £70,000 + car + pension: h2 Recruit Ltd: A wel...
Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: Due to expansion the Largest Independent Motor...