Taliban Chief Says Their 'Doors are Open' to Resume Talks With Washington

Published September 18th, 2019 - 12:00 GMT
Sher Mohammad Abbas Stanikzai (Twitter)
Sher Mohammad Abbas Stanikzai (Twitter)
He told the BBC: 'From our side, our doors are open for negotiations.'

The Taliban's chief negotiator has said their 'doors are open' to resuming talks with Washington, hours after two attacks by them killed at least 48 people. 

Sher Mohammad Abbas Stanikzai has defended the Taliban's role in recent bloodshed across Afghanistan after Donald Trump called off negotiations earlier this month because of an attack that killed a US soldier.

And this morning a suicide bomber detonated inside a government building in east Afghanistan in an attack that no one has claimed responsibility for yet.  

Stanikzai argued that Americans had admitted to killing thousands of Taliban members during the discussions and that the insurgents had done nothing wrong by continuing to fight throughout the talks. 

He told the BBC: 'From our side, our doors are open for negotiations.'

Trump had said the US was walking away from negotiations after nearly a year of trying to strike a deal that could pave the way for an American withdrawal from Afghanistan following 18 years of war.

He declared the talks 'dead' on September 10.

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But his administration, which has made no secret of its wish to bring troops home, also left the door open for a new attempt, though Secretary of State Mike Pompeo warned the Taliban must show a 'significant commitment' if talks were to resume.

Yesterday's attacks left at least 26 people dead at a rally for Afghan President Ashraf Ghani in the central province of Parwan, while 22 were killed in a blast in Kabul just over an hour later.

They were the bloodiest attacks to hit Afghanistan since the talks fell apart eight days ago. 

Dozens more were wounded in the blasts, for which the Taliban claimed responsibility.

More violence is expected in coming days as Afghans prepare for a presidential election on September 28, which the Taliban have promised to disrupt.

'We already warned people not to attend election rallies. If they suffer any losses that is their own responsibility,' Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said in a statement released after Tuesday's blasts.

The insurgents have said previously that the only other option is to continue fighting.

'We had two ways to end occupation in Afghanistan, one was jihad and fighting, the other was talks and negotiations,' Mujahid told AFP earlier this month.

'If Trump wants to stop talks, we will take the first way and they will soon regret it.' 

Witnesses and an AFP reporter also described hearing gunshots immediately after today's blast at the electronic identification registration centre in Jalalabad, capital of Nangarhar province, where both the Taliban and the Islamic State group are active.

'I was in class when I heard a big explosion followed by intense gunfire,' said Mohammad Ullah, a teacher at a nearby school.

'The kids started crying so we had to vacate the school. We jumped over the walls to take the students to a safer place.'

'Security forces are in the area to rescue the staff,' said provincial spokesman Ataullah Khogyani.

No group immediately claimed the attack, and it was not clear how many people had been inside the centre - where Afghans can register for their national electronic identification cards, or 'tazkiras' - at the time. 

The militants have vowed to disrupt the upcoming presidential election, scheduled for September 28, in which President Ashraf Ghani is taking on his own Chief Executive, Abdullah Abdullah, and more than a dozen other candidates.

The winner is hoping for a mandate to negotiate with the Taliban for a lasting peace in the country suffering from decades of violence.

But the insurgents want to undermine the legitimacy of the process and keep the president weak.

This article has been adapted from its original source.          

© Associated Newspapers Ltd.

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