Taliban leader ‘support political settlement’ in Afghanistan

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FILE PHOTO: File picture of members of a Taliban delegation leaving after peace talks with Afghan senior politicians in Moscow, Russia May 30, 2019. REUTERS/Evgenia Novozhenina/File Photo

The Taliban’s supreme leader Hibatullah Akhundzada on Sunday said he “strenuously favours” a political settlement to the conflict in Afghanistan even as the hardline Islamist movement has launched a sweeping offensive across the nation.

The announcement comes as representatives of the Afghan government and Taliban insurgents sat down for a new round of talks in Doha over the weekend, stirring hopes that the long stalled peace talks were being resuscitated.

“In spite of the military gains and advances, the Islamic Emirate strenuously favors a political settlement in the country,” Akhundzada said in a message released ahead of next week’s Muslim holiday of Eid al-Adha.

“Every opportunity for the establishment of an Islamic system, peace and security that presents itself will be made use of by the Islamic Emirate,” he added.

For months, the two sides have been meeting on and off in the Qatari capital, but have achieved little if any notable success with the discussions appearing to have lost momentum as the militants made enormous gains on the battlefield.

The two sides were due to talk again on Sunday.

The Taliban leader said his group remained committed to forging a solution to end the war but slammed “the opposition parties” for “wasting time”.

“Our message remains that instead of relying on foreigners, let us resolve our issues among ourselves and rescue our homeland from the prevailing crisis,” he added.

The insurgents have capitalised on the last stages of the withdrawal of US and other foreign troops from Afghanistan to launch a series of lightning offensives across large swathes of the country.

The group is now believed to control roughly half of the nation’s 400 districts, several important border crossings, and have laid siege to a string of vital provincial capitals.

The Taliban have long appeared to be united, operating under an effective chain of command, and carrying out complex military campaigns despite perennial rumours of splits among the organisation’s leadership.