Afghan president calls on Pakistan to battle Taliban
KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) — Afghanistan’s president on Monday called on Pakistan to battle the Taliban rather than try to bring them into peace talks.
Ashraf Ghani made the remarks during an address to parliament a week after a Taliban assault on the Afghan capital, Kabul, killed 64 people and wounded another 340.
Afghan officials have long accused Pakistan of turning a blind eye to the Taliban, the leadership of which is widely believed to be based in the Pakistani cities of Quetta and Peshawar, near the border.
Ghani said there are “no good or bad terrorists, they are just terrorists,” and that “Pakistan must understand that and act against them.”
Afghanistan, Pakistan, China and the United States have been trying to revive peace talks between Kabul and the Taliban in recent months, but have made little progress.
“We don’t expect Pakistan to bring the Taliban to the negotiating table,” Ghani said. “What we want is for Pakistan, based on the four nations’ agreement, to keep its promises and launch military operations against insurgents.”
Dawa Khan Menapal, deputy spokesman to the president, said that there has been no contact with the Afghan government regarding the peace talks from the Pakistani side.
“We have made our decision and the decision was announced by the president today,” he said. “Now it is Pakistan’s turn to fulfill their promise according the decision of the four nations meetings.”
Islamabad has denied past allegations that it aids the Taliban and says its influence over the group has been overstated.
Pakistan has been waging a military offensive against militants in the North Waziristan tribal region since 2014, But critics have long accused it of fighting its own insurgents while covertly supporting groups that attack neighboring Afghanistan and India.
In a surprise twist three relatively senior Taliban representatives living in self-imposed exile in the Middle Eastern state of Qatar arrived in Pakistan for meetings at least initially with Pakistani intelligence officials, according to two diplomats, neither of whom wanted to be identified by name or nationality because they feared the revelation would anger Pakistan.
Two of the Taliban officials who arrived here were identified as Shahbuddin Dilawar, an ethnic Pashtun, who was a charge d’affaires in Islamabad during the Taliban’s rule and Jan Muhammed Madni who served as the Taliban’s ambassador to the United Arab Emirates.
The identity of the third Taliban official was not immediately known.
The Taliban have maintained an office in the Qatari capital of Doha for several years although it was officially closed down after the Taliban demanded to be recognized as the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan. Kabul has steadfastly refused to allow the Taliban to be recognized under that banner saying it would be tantamount to recognizing them as a government-in-exile.
Associated Press writer Kathy Gannon in Islamabad contributed to this report.