Karzai invites Taliban leaders for direct talks

Afghan President Hamid Karzai has invited Taliban leaders to enter into direct talks with his government, urging Pakistan to support the negotiations.

(Ahlul Bayt News Agency) - In order to realize the objectives of the peace process, I invite the leadership of the Taliban to engage in direct talks with the Afghan government,” Karzai said in a statement on Tuesday.

In January, the United States pressured Kabul to agree to the opening of a liaison office by the Taliban militant group in Qatar, where Taliban representatives have begun contacts with Washington.

The talks come a decade in to the US-led war on Afghanistan in 2001, which was launched under the pretext of toppling the Taliban regime.

The war has inflicted heavy casualties on the foreign military troops in their battle with the militants, with no prospect of victory for the 130,000 US-led forces in Afghanistan who are to withdraw from the country by the end of 2014.

A large number of Afghan civilians have also lost their lives during the prolonged conflicts.

Meanwhile, the Afghan president has recently stepped up efforts to bring the militants to the negotiating table.

“The peace process, which envisions the return of all Afghans... including the Taliban, to peaceful lives in their country, is the surest way to peace and stability in Afghanistan," he said in his statement.

Karzai, who had earlier asked senior Pakistani cleric Maulana Sami-ul Haq to help mediate talks with the Taliban, this time appealed for cooperation from Islamabad, describing Pakistan’s support as "crucial" to any success in negotiations.

"I hereby request our brotherly government of Pakistan to support and facilitate our direct negotiation efforts as part of the peace process,” he said.

The statement followed Karzai’s telephone conversation with US President Barack Obama and his last week’s visit to Pakistan, where he said it was time to take action for peace.

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