Ashraf Ghani offers Taliban ′last chance′ for peace | News | DW | 06.06.2017
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Ashraf Ghani offers Taliban 'last chance' for peace

Afghanistan's president has warned the Taliban it will "face consequences" if it doesn't embrace peace negotiations. Meanwhile, the death toll from last week's suicide truck bombing in Kabul has risen to more than 150.

President Ashraf Ghani spoke Tuesday at the opening of the so-called "Kabul Process," an international conference aiming to set the stage for peace talks and restore security in Afghanistan.

Ghani told diplomats from two dozen countries, the EU, UN and NATO that he was prepared to give the Taliban one "last chance" to participate in negotiations.

"This is not an open-ended offer," he said. "Time is running out... this is the last chance: take it or face consequences."

Past attempts at peace have failed. The Taliban, who has been waging a 16-year insurgency and refers to itself as a government in exile, says it won't negotiate with Afghan officials until all foreign forces leave the country.

US-led international troops ended their combat mission in Afghanistan at the end of 2014, switching to a support and counterterrorism role.

In the two years since then, the Taliban has made steady gains, seizing control of several districts in different parts of the country.

Death toll tops 150

Ghani told diplomats that Afghanistan is on the front line of a global war against violence and called for a new security alliance to tackle common terrorist threats. 

"Taliban-sponsored terrorism is creating a platform that is bringing terrorists from all over the region to Afghanistan," Ghani said. "What we need is an agreement on regional security."

Highlighting the volatile situation in the country, a rocket struck an Indian diplomatic compound in Kabul as the conference kicked off. Later on Tuesday, a suspected bomb outside a mosque in the western city of Herat killed seven people, police said.

At least seven people were killed in an explosion at the biggest mosque in Herat

Afghans sort through the wreckage after an explosion at the historic Sunni mosque in Herat

Last week, a suicide truck bombing in Kabul killed scores of Afghan civilians. Ghani said the death toll in that attack had risen to 150, making it the deadliest single attack in the country since the 2001 US-led invasion to topple the Taliban.

The violence has added to mounting fears that the US-backed Afghan government cannot contain the Taliban or other Islamist insurgent groups without international support.

The US Charge d'Affaires Hugo Llorens, who is overseeing the American embassy in Kabul, said the Kabul conference was a chance to send the message that "the enemies of Afghanistan cannot win." 

Thomas Ruttig, co-director of the Afghanistan Analysts Network, was less optimistic. "Signing mutual non-interference or anti-terror support agreements won't change anything," he said, noting that similar accords had been signed in the past.

nm/kms (Reuters, AFP, AP, dpa)

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