Abandon dual Afghan policies:Taliban warns US

Islamabad: Close on the heels of the US advocating dialogue with the Afghan Taliban, the terror outfit has said that peace talks cannot be held unless Washington abandons its "dual-faced policies" on Afghanistan.

"On the one hand, the US talks about pursuing peace dialogue but on the other it`s seeking to establish permanent military bases in Afghanistan," Afghan Taliban spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid told `The Express Tribune` on telephone from Afghanistan.

"The US is seeking Pakistan`s help to negotiate with us, but at the same time, it`s pressuring Islamabad to fight the Haqqani network in North Waziristan… Unless the US shows its commitment to peace talks, dialogue is not possible," he said, asking Washington to abandon its "dual-faced policies" on Afghanistan.

On Thursday, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton told the US House Committee on Foreign Relations that any Afghan-led peace process would have to include the Quetta Shura, the Afghan Taliban leadership based in the southwestern Pakistani city, and its leader Mullah Omar.

During her recent trip to Pakistan, she urged Islamabad to crack down on all Taliban factions, including the Haqqani network, and also facilitate peace talks. "There is no solution in the region without Pakistan and no stable future without a partnership," Clinton told the House Committee.

However, Zabiullah Mujahid referred to what he described as contradictions in the US policy for Pakistan. "The irony is that while the US acknowledges Pakistan`s contributions in the fight against militancy, it also criticises it for being hand in glove with the militants," he said.

Asked if the Taliban can show flexibility for the greater good of war-ravaged Afghanistan, Mujahid said: "Ours is a just struggle. We didn`t invade America. It`s the US which waged a war in Afghanistan. We demand freedom… We`re not calling for something illegal."

Earlier this week, the Hizb-e-Islami led by Gulbudin Hekmatyar showed its willingness for peace talks with the US. "We are willing to have a direct or indirect political dialogue with Washington," said Ghairat Baheer, a Hizb-e-Islami leader.

Mujahid said he could not comment on Baheer`s remarks because the Hizb-e-Islami is a separate organisation.

The Haqqani network has turned down an "individual" rapprochement offer from the US, saying it should engage the Taliban Shura or council in dialogue because the Haqqanis are part of the movement led by Mullah Omar. The Afghan government plans to convene a `loya jirga` or grand council next month before it can approve a strategic partnership agreement between Afghanistan and the US.

The Afghan Taliban have warned there will be reprisals against anyone who attend the loya jirga.
The militants have threatened "to target every security guard, person with intention, participant
and every caller" of the jirga.