The Taliban has outrightly rejected an offer by Afghanistan President Ashraf Ghani to open a political office in Kabul, saying the president’s offer is aimed at “harming the peace efforts.”
The Taliban officials had earlier emphasised 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.
In reaction to the remarks, President Ghani said Sunday, “If the Taliban want an office, I will give it to them in Kabul, Nangarhar or Kandahar by tomorrow.” He made the offer while visiting the province of Nangarhar, a hotbed of insurgent violence on the border with Pakistan.
However, Taliban spokesman Sohail Shahin later told Reuters that the focus was international recognition of their existing site in Doha, Qatar, and not a new office in Afghanistan.
“Our demand about having an official political office is clear, we want that our office in Doha is recognized by the international community and the United Nations,” Shahin said.
“By this, Ghani is trying to change the topic and harm the on-going peace efforts,” the Taliban spokesman said.
The comments came a few days after the group’s two-day summit on the Afghan peace process in Moscow, which was described by former Afghan president Hamid Karzai as “very, very satisfactory.”
“We understand that the government needs to be part of these negotiations. We wish they could have been here today,” he told reporters in Moscow. Earlier in December 2018, the group had rejected a call by the Afghan government for formal peace talks in Saudi Arabia.
The Taliban negotiators are due to meet US officials for another round of talks in Qatar on February 25, at a time when President Ghani has repeatedly warned that the Afghan peace talks must be “Afghan-led and Afghan-owned.”
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