Afghan Taliban calls for direct talks with the US


—Photo by AP

KABUL: The Taliban has called for direct talks with the US to find a “peaceful solution” to the conflict in Afghanistan, in an apparent policy shift after months of escalating attacks.

Civilian casualties surged in recent months as militants from the Taliban unleashed a wave of bloodshed in urban areas and on security forces in response to a new open-ended military policy by US President Donald Trump.

In a statement posted late Monday, the Taliban said it “calls on American officials to talk directly to the Political Office of Islamic Emirate regarding a peaceful solution to the Afghan quandary”, using the name it calls itself.

The statement referenced local reports that said US envoy Alice Wells had suggested during a recent visit to Kabul that a window was still open for talks.

It came days before the second round of a regional peace conference in Kabul, where representatives from 25 countries will discuss counter-terrorism and conflict resolution strategies in the war, which US officials have described as a stalemate.

Washington has long called for talks with the Taliban, but historically insisted that any dialogue must include the Afghan government in Kabul. There has been no response to the Taliban’s offer from US officials.

Kabul urged the militants to take “practical steps”, with government spokesman Haroon Chakhansori adding that “all doors for peace talks are open”.

“If they are Afghans they should come and talk to the Afghan government, the US will not talk to them,” he told a press conference.—AFP