Afghan president offers Taliban local office, but group wants Doha instead

Elias Hubbard
February 11, 2019

The Taliban has refused to negotiate directly with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani's government, calling it a "puppet" of the West. ButGhani's allies in Washington insist Afghans should lead the peace process.

Mr. Mujahid said that while the Taliban does not have a codified manifesto, their "clear" objectives were the end of the occupation of Afghanistan, establishment of an Islamic government, establishment of peace and security, reconstruction of Afghanistan and the provision of administrative services.

Nangarhar is a stronghold of the Taliban, the hardline Islamist movement that now controls or contests districts across almost half the country, more than 17 years since they were toppled from power.

Head of Political Office of the Taliban Sher Mohammad Abbas Stanakzai (front L) and Former President of Afghanistan Hamid Karzai (front R) greet each other after the peace talks on Moscow format at the President Hotel in Moscow, Russia on February 6, 2019.

Taliban officials in Moscow last week stressed the importance of a formal office among a string of demands that included the removal of Western sanctions and travel bans on Taliban members, prisoner releases and an end to "propaganda" against the group.

But a Taliban spokesman later told reporters that they would prefer to stay in Doha, where they have had an office since 2013, and would try to get global recognition of this outpost.

On Sunday he said Ghani was trying to harm the peace efforts with his latest offer.

"Our demand about having an official political office is clear, we want that our office in Doha is recognized by the global community and the United Nations", Shahin said.

FILE PHOTO: Afghanistan's President Ashraf Ghani attends a two-day conference on Afghanistan at the United Nations in Geneva, Switzerland, November 27, 2018.

While the USA talks with the Taliban have focused on troop presence and assurances that terrorist networks would not be given haven, Khalilzad said intra-Afghan talks could also deal with human rights, freedom of the press and the role of women, who were harshly oppressed under Taliban rule.

Shanahan will meet Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, whose government was not part of major talks between USA and Taliban officials last month that negotiators hope could bring a breakthrough in the 17-year conflict.

In Washington, the US State Department said Ambassador Khalilzad and his interagency delegation would also consult officials in Belgium, Germany and Turkey before arriving in the region for further talks. Some U.S. forces also carry out counter-terrorism operations.

Other reports by Click Lancashire

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