Afghan Taliban commander sets condition for peace talks in Afghanistan

Afghan Taliban commander sets condition for peace talks in Afghanistan
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The Taliban leader said in an Eid message that the main obstacle in the way of peace was the foreign troops’ “occupation”.

The Taliban’s leader, Mullah Hebatullah Akhundzada, issued an Eid message on Thursday and said the only way to end the war in Afghanistan was for foreign troops to withdraw.

In a statement, Akhundzada said: “The main obstacle in the way of peace is the (foreign troops) occupation.”

He also claimed that the Taliban has captured half of Afghanistan

The statement comes just days after the US-Forces and NATO commander in Afghanistan , Gen. John Nicholson, said the Afghan government has control over 62 percent of the country, and that the Taliban has control of only 10 percent. The rest is disputed.

His comments come after US President Donald Trump last week announced his new strategy in Afghanistan and vowed to increase troop levels in the country in order to prevent the Taliban from retaking control of country.

Trump also criticized Pakistan over providing safe havens for the “terrorists” and said that “we will kill the terrorists”. Trump said: “It’s time that Pakistan takes action” against insurgents groups.

On Sunday, US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, told Fox News that President Trump’s new strategy on Afghanistan clearly states the US is not undertaking nation building and that there needs to be reconciliation between all ethnic groups, including the Taliban.

Tillerson told Fox News: “I think the president (Trump) has been clear in his speech on Afghanistan that we are not undertaking nation building.

“So we will be shifting our diplomatic and aid and development programs as well to coincide with the president’s view that the Afghan government and the Afghan people must own their form of government and they must come to some reconciliation with all ethnic groups, including the Taliban, as to how they can secure their country as a peaceful country, one that does not support terrorism, does not provide safe haven for terrorists, and does not align itself with any terrorist organizations or countries that do. That’s what winning looks like,” he said.

He said the new plan was a dramatic shift in terms of the military strategy and that it will be based completely on the conditions on the ground.

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