Karzai opens Peace Council in bid to talk to Taliban
Afghan President Hamid Karzai on Thursday inaugurated a peace council set up to broker an end to war with the Taliban and their allies. The move comes amid further reports of US and Afghan government talks with the Taliban and other rebels.
"To the opposition, be they the Taliban or anyone who wants to serve his country, we call on them to take the opportunity and respond to this effort and help bring peace to this country," Karzai said.
Although he has personally picked the 68-member body, Karzai presented it as “independent”, declaring that the government is “your supporter – you can call on us if you need help”.
The High Peace Council was set up following a nationwide peace jirga in June as part of Karzai's plan to win over some or all of the Taliban leaders. Two more women will be added to its ranks after women activists complained they were insufficiently represented.
Critics say that there are too many warlords and militia leaders in its ranks for it to succeed.
The meeting takes place on the ninth anniversary of the US-led operation which led to the toppling of the Taliban, although Karzai made no reference to the fact.
Both the US and Afghan governments have recently made “extremely tentative” contact with the Haqqani network, according to the UK’s Guardian newspaper. Some western officials now believe the network, which is based in Pakistan's North Waziristan tribal area, to be more of a military threat than the Taliban’s Quetta Shura.
The claim follows reports in the Washington Post that Taliban leader Mullah Omar has backed secret high-level talks with the Afghan government.
Nato’s Afghan commander, US General David Petraeus, has said that the Taliban have made “overtures” to the Karzai government and foreign forces about ending hostilities.
Under discussion are proposals that Taliban leaders be allowed positions in the government and the withdrawal of US and Nato troops according to an agreed timetable, the Washington Post says.
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