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Afghan Taliban say will not agree to peace talks ceasefire

Source: Thomson Reuters Foundation - Wed, 1 Feb 2012 09:18 GMT
Author: Reuters
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By Mohammad Anwar

KUNAR, Afghanistan, Feb 1 (Reuters) - The Taliban in Afghanistan said on Wednesday they would not agree to a U.S. demand for a ceasefire as a condition for peace talks, but would not comment on a U.S. military report that they were set to retake the country when foreign troops left.

"Our struggle and jihad will continue until we have installed a complete Islamic government in Afghanistan, regardless of the year 2014 or 2015 when the foreign troops say will leave Afghanistan," said Qari Yousuf Ahmadi, a spokesman for the hardline Islamist movement.

The Taliban announced last month that they would open a political office in the Qatari capital, Doha, to support possible peace talks with the United States.

But NATO said in a report leaked to media, including the Times newspaper in London, the Taliban, backed by Pakistan, were set to retake control of Afghanistan after NATO-led forces withdraw from the country in 2014.

While the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) said the report, prepared by the U.S. military, was not meant as a strategic assessment, it could be interpreted as a damning appraisal of the war, now dragging into its eleventh year and aimed at blocking a Taliban return to power.

The report could undermine twin-pronged but separate efforts by both the United States and Afghanistan's government to enter peace talks with the Taliban, as it could re-embolden the fighters ahead of the traditional summer fighting months.

Marc Grossman, the U.S. special envoy to Afghanistan and Pakistan, said during a January visit to Kabul that for talks to get underway and for a transfer of Taliban prisoners from U.S. custody in order to build confidence, the Taliban must first agree to a ceasefire, and renounce support for al Qaeda.

Saudi Arabia is also reluctant to host separate talks between the Afghan government and the Taliban without concessions from the Islamist movement including dropping renouncing its al Qaeda ties. (Writing by Rob Taylor; Editing by Robert Birsel)

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