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5 Feb, 2014 08:30

Taliban ‘more willing than ever’ to join Afghan peace process

President Hamid Karzai has confirmed he is engaged in secret talks with the Taliban, which reportedly wants to join the Afghanistan peace process. Washington is pushing for Karzai to sign a security pact that would extend the US military presence.

Karzai’s spokesperson confirmed to Reuters on Tuesday that government representatives had been in negotiations with the Taliban and the results were promising.

“I can confirm that ... Taliban are willing more than ever to join the peace process,” Aimal Faizi said. “Contacts have been made and we are also in touch with them.”

The talks reportedly took place in Dubai for three days, with the Taliban representatives flying in from Doha. President Karzai, who faces pressure from Washington to sign a security pact, has called on the White House to enter into peace talks with the Taliban.

He says he will only put pen to paper if Washington opens diplomatic channels to the extremist group.

"Starting peace talks is a condition because we want to be confident that after the signing of the security agreement, Afghanistan will not be divided into fiefdoms," he said on January 25 at a news conference. Karzai added that negotiation with the Taliban was vital to ensure the future stability of Afghanistan.

Since Karzai refused to sign the pact in November of last year, relations with the US have been put under increasing strain. The deal itself would extend the American military presence in Afghanistan beyond the scheduled withdrawal in December of this year.

The White House has warned that Karzai cannot “keep deferring” the decision to sign the pact and have threatened to withdraw all troops if no deal is reached.

"You can't just keep deferring and deferring, because at some point the realities of planning and budgeting and all that is required collides,"
US Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel told reporters last Wednesday.

There is the possibility that the US could seek get the agreement signed by Karzai’s successor as the elections are set for April. However, there are concerns that it will be too late to finalize the details of the agreement by the time a successor has assumed the presidency.

“The more people speak about it being signed after the election, the more irrelevant [Karzai] becomes,” said one American diplomat to Reuters. “Sad as it is, we might have to bank on the next guy.”

A U.S. soldier stands at the site of a suicide attack on a NATO base in Zhari, west of Kandahar province, January 20, 2014. (Reuters / Ahmad Nadeem)

As well as opening negotiations with the Taliban, Karzai is also demanding that the US military cease all operations on Afghan villages, including the use of drones to carry out remote strikes. The president gave his opinion on American intervention in an interview with the Sunday Times this week.

“I believe the best way to summarize this is to put it in the words of Shelley - the great British poet, ‘I met murder on the way’. This whole 12 years was one of constant pleading with America, please treat our civilians respectfully and treat their lives as the lives of people.”

Investigative journalist and historian Gareth Porter told RT correspondent Marina Portnaya that US intervention and the treatment of Afghan civilians had created “a tremendous increase in anti-American sentiment.”

“The use of night raids on people's homes, knocking down doors in the middle of the night and antagonizing hundreds of thousands of people whose family, friends and neighbors”
were just some of the tactics that have sullied the US’ reputation in the country.