KABUL: The Afghan Taliban have again rejected an offer for peace talks with the government in Kabul.

Friday’s statement by Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said the militants “are not interested in talks while foreign soldiers are still on Afghan soil”.

Mujahid referred to last month’s statement by the Afghan High Peace Council, a government body tasked with negotiating an end to the nearly 17-year war with the insurgents, which had called on the Taliban to join the peace process.

Mujahid also repeated long-standing Taliban claims that Afghan government officials were “puppets”.

Taliban leaders have at times expressed interest in holding peace talks but they have refused to meet officials of the US-backed government, saying they will only negotiate with the United States directly about the withdrawal of all foreign forces.

Meanwhile, a government official said two roadside mines possibly meant for later use against security forces had exploded in a residential area in the eastern Ghazni province, killing three children.

Arif Noori, a spokesman for the governor of Ghazi province, said the mines detonated in the remote Gilan district, killing three children and wounding seven others.

Published in Dawn, July 7th, 2018

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