In peace overture, Taliban head says committed to Afghan political settlement

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Kabul, July 18 (EFE).- Taliban chief Hibatullah Akhundzada Sunday said his group was committed to a political settlement to the Afghan crisis even as the Islamist militia makes rapid military advances in the war-ravaged country.

In his message ahead of the Eid-ul-Adha festival, Akhundzada said the Taliban “strenuously favor a political settlement in the country” despite their “the military gains and advances.”

The peace overture comes amid a spike in violence in Afghanistan after the US-led international forces began pulling out from the country on May 1.

In the last more than two months of heavy fighting, the Taliban have surrounded several provincial capitals after capturing more than 130 districts and many vital border crossings in the north and west of Afghanistan.

The insurgents have gained control over large swathes of territories, unprecedented in the last 20 years of war after a US invasion ousted the Islamist group.

Thousands of Afghan security forces have either surrendered to the Taliban with their weapons or quit the job.

Peace talks have been underway between the government and the Taliban for the past more than ten months. But they have made no significant progress amid stalemated talks.

The Afghan government and Taliban negotiators met in the Qatari capital on Saturday, moving a step closer to end the impasse.

The Taliban leader blamed the Afghan government for the deadlock.

“Instead of relying on foreigners, let us resolve our issues among ourselves and rescue our homeland from the prevailing crisis,” Akhundzada said in the message.

“If they (government side) accept our demand for a pure Islamic system, we will also accept all their rights and lawful demands.”

Akhundzada criticized the arming of thousands of civilians and supporters of former Afghan warlords by the government to prevent the Taliban from advancing.

He said the “foremost efforts and priority” were to “find a resolution through dialog.”

He said the Taliban was seeking mutual diplomatic, economic, and political relations in the framework of reciprocity with all the countries, including the United States.

“We assure all foreign diplomats, embassies, consulates, humanitarian organizations and investors that they will not face any problems from our side,” he noted.

He said Afghanistan needed their presence, and they should continue their work without any apprehensions.

He said the Taliban would strive to create “an appropriate environment” for female education within the framework of Islamic law.

He also assured the Taliban were committed to freedom of speech within the Shariah and national interests. EFE

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