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Karzai wants to be part of US-Taliban talks

06 October, 2012

WASHINGTON: The Karzai administration's demand to be part of talks between the United States and the Taliban has stalled the peace process, a top Afghan official said, asserting the drive had to be led by Afghan government.

Visiting Afghan Deputy Foreign Minister Jawed Ludin told reporters in Washington on Thursday that an Afghan-led peace effort needed to be respected and adhered to by all parties concerned.

"We aren't opposed to (the deal). What we criticised was the fact that we felt that if you are really true to the motto of an Afghan-led peace process, we should be involved.

"We were told that this was because the Taliban are not ready to have the Afghan government on the other side of the table. Frankly, this is not enough," Ludin told a group of journalists.

As a result of Afghanistan's assertiveness, the US-Taliban negotiations, including on the release of five insurgent leaders from Guantanamo Bay and opening of a Taliban office in Qatar, had paused.

The Taliban, who did not agree to the condition set by the Karzai government, had cut off the talks and "since then there's been no contact, he added. "They're still there in Doha, but the office hasn't been set up."

Ludin said the Afghan government was still waiting for Qatari officials to come to Kabul for discussions on the opening of a Taliban office in Doha.

In response to a query, he said most of insider attacks in Afghanistan resulted from terrorist infiltration into the ranks of local security forces and had nothing to do with cultural differences between American and Afghan soldiers.

The minister explained in an effort to increase the strength of Afghan forces, some basic conditions like background checks of those being drafted were relaxed and the rebels took advantage of it to infiltrate ANSF.

But steps were being taken to rectify that error, he hastened to add. "Some people think this is a cultural thing. This is vastly overstated," he told a questioner.

A day earlier, State Department spokesperson Victoria Nuland said the Taliban were not interested in peace talks, but she did not assign any reason. "We have been saying for a number of weeks that we support an Afghan-led process, that we've created this Afghan-Pakistan-US group to facilitate Afghan-led reconciliation. But the Taliban have not been interested in coming to the table for some time…"

Ludin said the talks with Taliban HAD not reached a stage that the Afghan Government would like. He insisted Afghanistan would lead the process and every other country, including Pakistan, take the backseat.

End.

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