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Taliban leader says 'favors political settlement' to Afghan conflict

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
A Taliban delegation attends a session of the peace talks between the Afghan government and the group in the Qatari capital Doha, on July 17, 2021. (Photo by AFP)

Taliban leader Hibatullah Akhundzada has urged Kabul to stop relying on “foreigners” to resolve the conflict in Afghanistan, saying the militant group favors “a political settlement” by the Afghan parties.

Akhundzada said in a message on Sunday that despite the group’s “military gains and advances, the Islamic Emirate strenuously favors a political settlement in the country.”

“Every opportunity for the establishment of an Islamic system, peace and security that presents itself will be made use of by the Islamic Emirate,” he added.

He said the Taliban remained committed to forging a solution to end the war but slammed “the opposition parties" for "wasting time.”

“Our message remains that instead of relying on foreigners, let us resolve our issues among ourselves and rescue our homeland from the prevailing crisis,” Akhundzada added.

He made the remarks as representatives from Kabul and the Taliban sat down for a new round of talks in the Qatari capital, Doha, on Saturday.

The two sides were due to talk again on Sunday.

Peace talks between the Taliban and Kabul, obligated under a deal between the US and the militant group in Doha last year, have made very little progress so far. 

The militants have intensified attacks across Afghanistan after the United States missed an initial May 1 deadline for a complete withdrawal of American forces from the country.

That has brought the United States and its NATO allies under scrutiny for having failed to stabilize the security situation in Afghanistan after two decades of war and occupation.

The Taliban are now claiming to have seized control of scores of districts and several important border crossings. The militants have also laid siege to a string of vital provincial capitals.

The Afghan Defense Ministry announced on Monday that its forces had reclaimed control of 17 towns, four of them in the past 48 hours, and were prepared to capture the remaining towns from Taliban militants.

Despite the fighting, the Taliban have said they are “very serious about talks and dialog” with Kabul.

In exchange for the US withdrawal, the Taliban have made a commitment to negotiating with the Afghan government. But they have so far refused to declare a ceasefire.

The group has reassured that the US pullout “will pave the way for Afghans to decide about their future between themselves.”

The US invaded Afghanistan in October 2001 under the pretext of the so-called war on terror. The invasion removed the Taliban from power, but insecurity and violence persist to this day.

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