Afghanistan President Ashraf Ghani on Wednesday called on the Taliban to take part in peace talks to “save the country,” offering security and incentives such as passports to insurgents who join the negotiations.

Ghani spoke at the 2nd Kabul Process Conference attended by representatives from more than 20 countries and international organisations.

“We will consider the Taliban's view in the peace talks,” he said.

Ghani said the Afghan government will provide passports and issue visas to Taliban members and their families and open an office for them in Kabul. He said his government would also work to remove sanctions against Taliban leaders.

Ghani said a ceasefire must be agreed on and the Taliban must be declared a political group.

“The Afghan government must be accepting and we will also work on the list of freeing Taliban prisoners,” he said. He also called on government-to-government talks with Pakistan.

In a tweet last night about today's conference, Ghani had said: "I will present detailed peace offer to Taliban and Pakistan on behalf of the Afghan people. We wish to march toward a lasting peace in #Afghanistan and in the region!"

US Deputy Assistant Secretary for South and Central Asia Alice Wells has said the United States has kept the door open to dialogue with the Taliban.

The Taliban in a statement Monday called on US officials to talk directly to their political office regarding a peaceful solution to the fighting.

“It would help in finding a solution if America accepts the legitimate demands of the Afghan people and forward its own concerns and requests for discussion to the Islamic Emirate through a peaceful channel,” the statement said.

The Taliban said in the statement the US must recognise that the conflict cannot be solved militarily.

India, Pakistan foreign secretaries may meet in Kabul

Indian Foreign Secretary Vijay Gokhale may come face to face with his Pakistani counterpart, Tehmina Janjua, in Kabul this week for the conference, the Hindustan Times reported on Tuesday.

Gokhale will attend the conference on Wednesday. Though an official one-to-one meeting between the foreign secretaries hasn’t been confirmed by either of the two countries, if it takes place, the paper said, it would be the first such meeting between India and Pakistan since National Security Adviser Ajit Doval met his Pakistan counterpart in December 2017 in Bangkok.

The speculated meeting of the top diplomats at the Kabul conference comes in the backdrop of recent attacks on an army camp in Jammu and Kashmir’s Sunjwan, which India blames on Pakistan.

The “Kabul Process” meeting is an Afghan government-led initiative with stakeholders to find lasting peace in the war-torn country, including the contours of engaging with Taliban outfit. This is the second such meeting of the Kabul Process and is taking place amid stepped up prospects that the elusive TAPI gas pipeline connecting Turkmenistan and India through Afghanistan and Pakistan could be taking shape.

The first Kabul Process conference was first held in June last year.

Recent Taliban Attacks

A resurgent Taliban has been blamed for much of the increased violence in Afghanistan since United States and Nato forces concluded combat missions in 2014. The recent attacks have underscored the weaknesses of Afghan security forces more than 16 years after the US-led invasion toppled the Taliban.

Over the weekend in western Farah province, at least 18 Afghan soldiers were killed when their checkpoint came under attack by Taliban insurgents, two other soldiers were wounded in the attack in the Bala Buluk district, according to defence ministry officials.

On Jan. 27, a Taliban attacker drove an ambulance filled with explosives into the heart of the city, killing at least 103 people and wounding as many as 235.

The Taliban claimed the ambulance attack, as well as an attack a week earlier than that in which militants stormed a luxury hotel in Kabul, killing 22 people, including 14 foreigners, and setting off a 13-hour battle with security forces.


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