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Karzai seeks Taliban supporters’ vote, promising post-election talks
BayBak, Azerbaijan | 1412 days ago | Friday, 7th August , 2009 , 05:13 [am] | International
|.|| Afghan President Hamid Karzai sought votes from Taliban-influenced areas, saying on Wednesday he would intensify peace talks with the Taliban and other insurgent groups after the Aug. 20 presidential election if he wins.
Karzai has spoken in the past of seeking peace with the Taliban, especially after the vote. Wednesday’s comments were among the clearest
Afghan President Hamid Karzai sought votes from Taliban-influenced areas, saying on Wednesday he would intensify peace talks with the Taliban and other insurgent groups after the Aug. 20 presidential election if he wins.
Karzai has spoken in the past of seeking peace with the Taliban, especially after the vote. Wednesday’s comments were among the clearest the president has given suggesting an intensified effort at talks later this year.
“If I win, then my first priority will be solidifying and speeding up the peace process with the Taliban and Hezb-i-Islami and all those groups who are not part of al Qaeda or terrorist networks or other cells that cause damage to Afghanistan or international partners,” Karzai told a news conference.
“I have been asking for such a dialogue for peace for years so this is not a new link. This is continuity and it will continue so into the future as well, especially after the elections.”
Hezb-i-Islami is a group led by former anti-Soviet Mujahideen commander Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, whose followers are active in some eastern provinces and have allied themselves with the Taliban.
Karzai spoke alongside Anders Fogh Rasmussen, the newly appointed head of NATO, in Afghanistan on his first visit abroad since taking up the post.
Rasmussen said he approved of negotiations, but they must be led by the Afghan government and must be carried out from a “position of strength”, which means no let-up in military force by NATO and Afghan troops.
“There is no alternative whatsoever to continue and strengthen military efforts,” Rasmussen, a former Danish prime minister, said.
The United States and NATO now have more than 100,000 troops in Afghanistan, including tens of thousands of additional U.S. troops arriving this year as part of President Barack Obama’s occupation strategy. Most of the 62,000 U.S. troops in Afghanistan serve under the umbrella of a NATO-led International Security Assistance Force.
Karzai has placed renewed emphasis on peace overtures as part of the stump speech he gives at campaign rallies across the country in the run-up to the election.
“After succeeding through your votes, the start of my first day of work will be to intensify the efforts for peace in this land,” he told a rally on Saturday.
Last month Karzai’s government announced it had reached a truce with local Taliban fighters in Badghis, a province in the north. Some Taliban leaders later denied there was such a truce.
Karzai’s government has enlisted the help of former Taliban officials in recent months to act as go-betweens in an effort to reach out to fighters. Saudi Arabia has also indicated its willingness to help in mediation efforts.
But so far the Taliban have said at least in public they will not agree to any talks until all foreign forces withdraw from the country.reuters, Voice of a Nation