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Afghan Taliban reject safe passage offer of US-Af-Pak

Islamabad: The Afghan Taliban have dismissed an offer from Afghanistan, Pakistan and the US to arrange safe passage for militants willing to engage in peace talks as an attempt to "create schisms" in their ranks, claiming that such efforts were aimed at diverting attention from "real issues".

"The enemy is trying to create schisms in our ranks. They will fail the way their strategies have failed over the past 10 years. This offer reflects the weaknesses, frustration and state of panic of the inimical forces," said a statement issued by the Afghan Taliban.

"Such kind of efforts by the United States have raised questions about its efforts to reach an understanding with the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan," the statement said, referring to stalled exploratory talks between the Taliban and American officials in Qatar.

At a meeting in Islamabad on Friday, top Afghan, American and Pakistani officials agreed to explore ways to arrange safe passage for Taliban militants wanting to join the Afghan reconciliation process.

The "Core Group" of the three countries decided to form a sub-group to examine the issue of safe passage for Afghan Taliban leaders who give up violence. However, the Afghan Taliban`s statement in Pashto condemned the Core Group`s "discordant and ominous efforts."

It said: "The US, instead of realising ground realities, is pursuing dirty tactics. This will harm the US efforts which, they say, are aimed at creating an understanding with the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan."

The statement contended that safe passage will only be provided to "those who bow to the US." Such efforts to create rifts in the ranks of the Taliban are "aimed at diverting attention from real issues" and will yield no results, it added.

Afghan Foreign Ministry spokesman Janan Mosazai said the government had asked Pakistan to provide protection to Taliban cadres who are outside Afghanistan and are willing to hold talks with Afghan authorities. "We want that such Taliban leaders should not feel threats to their lives and harassment of their families," Mosazai told PTI.

Afghan Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid rejected the possibility of direct talks with the Afghan government. "There is no change in our policy. We will not hold any talks with the Afghan government," he said on phone from Afghanistan.

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