US hopes new Taliban chief will chose peace

WASHINGTON: The United States on Wednesday expressed hopes that new Taliban leader Mullah Habatullah Akhundzada will choose peace and work towards a negotiated solution to bring an end to violence in Afghanistan.

A US State department spokesman Mark Toner said “we would hope that he would seize the opportunity. He does have an opportunity in front of him to choose peace and work towards a negotiated solution.”

While responding to a question as to how the United States would react to a report that the new Taliban leader has rejected the peace process, Toner said “we hope that he makes the right choice.”

Akhunzada in an audio message released in Pushto language reportedly stated that the Taliban will not agree to peace talks, and vowed to continue fighting till the end after the death of their leader Mullah Muhammad Akhtar Mansour who was killed in a drone strike last week.

Commenting on the death of Mullah Mansour, President Barack Obama said this week the slain Taliban leader had rejected efforts by the Afghan government to engage in peace talks and end the violence.

Obama also said that the Taliban should seize the opportunity to pursue the path of peace by joining the Afghan government in reconciliation process that leads to lasting peace and stability.

The spokesman declined to reply when asked if the United States would also target the new Taliban leader if he objected to peace process.

“I’m not going to predict who we might target in the national security interests of the United States,” he said.

The spokesman also confirmed that Mullah Habatullah was not on the US list of designated terrorists.

Mullah Habatullah was said to be a senior judge during the Taliban’s five-year rule over Afghanistan in the 1990s. He hails from Afghanistan’s southern province of Kandahar. -APP