Karzai's bid for negotiations with Taliban roundly rejected
Afghan president says those who disagree with his offer of safety for the Taliban to attend talks can unseat him or leave the country.
Afghan President Hamid Karzai's offer of safe passage for Taliban leader Mullah Mohamed Omar to attend peace talks appears to have been scuttled by objections from both the Islamist militia group and the United States.Skip to next paragraph
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On Sunday, Mr. Karzai made a risky offer to the Afghan Taliban, guaranteeing that their leader would be protected if he agreed to attend peace negotiations in the Afghan capital.
According to the Associated Press (AP), Karzai also issued a bold ultimatum to the United States and other foreign powers who have stationed some 65,000 troops in the country that he acknowledged could be controversial.
"If I say I want protection for Mullah Omar, the international community has two choices, remove me or leave if they disagree," Karzai said in an news conference in Kabul.
"If I am removed in the cause of peace for Afghanistan by force by them, than I will be very happy. If they disagree, they can leave. But we are not in that stage yet," Karzai said.
It is widely believed that Mr. Omar and other top Taliban leaders are currently living in the area around Quetta, Pakistan, although there have been no sightings of the man since the US-led invasion in 2001.
Violence in Afghanistan has reached its highest point since the 2001 invasion, which drove the Taliban from power, says The Washington Post. AP reports that insurgent attacks are up by 30 percent over this time last year.
While negotiating with the Taliban may have seemed unthinkable only a few years ago, the idea has gained new currency amid the country's deteriorating security situation, The Washington Post adds. Karzai says his main condition for talks is that the Taliban recognize Afghanistan's Constitution.
But the US does not share Karzai's willingness to open a dialogue with the Taliban, who have so far refused to renounce violence or condemn Al Qaeda. Al Qaeda has close ties with the Taliban, who protected them inside Afghanistan after the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.
One day after Karzai made his offer to Omar, US officials subtly challenged it. Speaking in Washington, White House spokesman Sean McCormack said he could not imagine a situation in which the Taliban could be protected from multinational forces, reports McClatchy Newspapers.
In Washington, State Department spokesman Sean McCormack slapped down the idea Monday. "One can't imagine the circumstances where you have the senior leadership of the Taliban — that there would be any safe passage with respect to U.S. forces. Certainly, it's hard to imagine those circumstances standing here right now," McCormack said.