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Afghan Official: Taliban Can Take Part In Presidential Election If Peace Talks Start

Afghan CEO Abdullah Abdullah met with U.S. special envoy for Afghan peace and reconciliation Zalmay Khalilzad on July 24.

The Taliban can take part in the September 28 presidential election if they start negotiations with the Afghan government, a spokesman for Afghan Chief Executive Officer Abdullah Abdullah told local media outlet Tolo News on July 24.

Speaking four days before the presidential election campaign starts, the spokesman, Fraidoon Khwazoon, said "the door is open for the Taliban whenever they are willing to come and sit with the Afghan government and take part in democratic and national stages."

His comments came a day after Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan said he will meet with the Taliban to try and persuade them start negotiations with the Western-backed government in Kabul.

"Now I will meet the Taliban…to get them to talk to the Afghan government, and so that the election" can be inclusive, Khan said at the U.S. Institute of Peace in Washington on July 23.

There are 18 candidates competing for the presidency including current incumbent Ashraf Ghani, who is seeking a second term.

All of them are men, including a former warlord.

The election comes at a time when militants are launching attacks on Afghan security forces almost every day despite peace efforts gaining momentum to put an end to the nearly 18-year war.

The Taliban control or contest around half of the country, controlling more territory than at any time since the U.S.-led invasion in 2001 ousted the group from power.

Washington has said it is ready to pull foreign forces out of the country in exchange for a set of Taliban security guarantees. One of them is for Afghanistan not to become a haven for terrorist groups.

The United States is aiming for a deal by September 1, before the presidential election.

If no one wins a majority, a second round will take place, most likely in November.

Based on reporting by Tolo News and AFP
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